Garden and Orchard - Self Reliance - The Green Homestead

How to Save Money with an Easy Seed Starting Station

easy seed starting station

Set Up an Easy Seed Starting Station

I recently spent an afternoon drooling over some expensive seed starting stations in a popular gardening catalog. The model I liked featured 3 shelves and cost about $800. It’s hard to save money starting your seedlings with that kind of expense. If you’ve ever wanted to create your own economical and easy seed starting station, keep reading!

Many crops need a long growing season to produce a sizeable harvest. To get the most from a short-season or northern garden, you’ll either need to purchase seedlings or start your own a few weeks before your last spring frost. Although it’s entirely possible to start a few seeds in a sunny window, they will be ‘leggy’ compared to those started under lights and should be started later.

To raise stocky seedlings you’ll want to start them in a greenhouse or under lights indoors. For many years I started my seedlings under shop lights and this works reasonably well, but I’m switching to full spectrum LED grow lights because they produce more robust stockier seedlings.

The prices listed in this post are from 2021.

This post contains affiliate and referral links and advertising as a means to earn income. You won’t pay any extra but I may earn a small commission on qualifying purchases. As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a commission on qualifying purchases. See my disclosures.

I've been using a seed starting station like this for many years and it works well for my needs.
There are LED lights on the top shelf and fluorescent shop lights on the 2 bottom shelves. I’m switching over to all LED lights as my budget allows.

How to Set Up an Easy Seed Starting Station

Here’s how to set up a quick and easy seed starting station or a microgreen growing station in your own home. Allow yourself about an hour to assemble a shelving unit and hang the lights. If you need to build shelves, allow extra time.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Shelving unit
  • Grow lights
  • Extension cords
  • Power strip
  • Timer

You may be able to work around some of these items to save some cash or add others to customize your setup to fit your needs. For example, if you only need to start a few seedlings, a table or desk might be large enough. Consider using a desk lamp with an LED grow light bulb instead of investing in a seed starting station.

Optional Extras:

  • Seedling heat mats
  • White plastic or mylar sheets to reflect light onto seedlings

I’m using a plastic shelving unit, a mix of LED and fluorescent grow lights, several extension cords, a timer, and 2 power strips. I also have several seedling heat mats that get a lot of use. ( I even use them to keep chicks warm!)

Approximate Cost of Supplies:

  • Plastic shelving unit – $45
  • LED light strips, set of 6 – $60 (enough for one shelf)
  • Shop light – $24 each (I’m using 2 for each shelf)
  • Fluorescent bulbs – $10 each (need 2 for each shop light)
  • Extension cords – $8 each (I’m using 5 cords)
  • Power strip – $18
  • Timer – $9
  • Seedling heat mat – $15

Approximate Total Cost = $323

If you consider the cost of purchasing fluorescent bulbs for your stoplight every year or two, you can see that it is less expensive in the long run to start with LED grow lights. For one shelf I either spent $60 for the LED grow lights or I spent $48 for 2 shop light fixtures and $40 for the bulbs for a total of approximately $88 for each shelf of growing space. You could probably use one shop light per shelf, but you will either have leggy seedlings or you will start fewer seeds.

Cost of light fixtures needed to set up a growing space on each shelf of my plastic shelving unit:

  • $60 for LED grow lights
  • $88 for 2 shop lights and 4 fluorescent bulbs

The LED grow lights I purchased have a 2-year warranty and all six lights draw about the same amount of power as one shop light with fluorescent bulbs.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Setting Up This Seed Starting Station

  • Assemble shelving unit (or mount shelves on a wall with brackets)
  • Make sure the unit will accommodate your lights (shop lights are 4′ long)
  • Attach lights to the bottom of the shelf above your growing space
  • Plug light fixtures into an indoor/outdoor extension cord
  • Plug cords into a power strip (if you will have multiple lights) and plug this into a timer
  • Set lights to come on for 12 hours a day
  • Use a seedling heat mat to speed germination
  • Hang white plastic or mylar on the wall behind seedlings to reflect light into the growing space

Tips and Safety Concerns

Before you set up your station and walk away, there are a few things to consider:

  • Make sure all plants have trays to catch drainage water
  • Don’t get electrical components wet
  • Make sure light fixtures are hung securely
  • Use a power strip with surge protection
  • Check the stability of your shelving unit and keep children and pets from climbing on, or tipping it over
  • Make sure pets and children can’t consume any plants that could be toxic (such as foxglove)
  • Don’t put too much weight on shelves
starting tomato seedlings

Save Money by Starting Your Seedlings

So you might be wondering how much money you can save by starting your seeds at home. Purchasing veggie, herb, and flower seedlings can cost anywhere from $2 – $5 for a 6 pack of small plants to $5 – $6 for a pint-size heirloom vegetable plant. One packet of seeds may range from $2 to $5 for 10+ seeds, depending on the rarity of the variety and the company you purchase from.

Learn How to Start the Best Seedlings Indoors

I typically start 5 to 6 flats of seedlings every spring and it saves a lot of money to purchase packets of seeds and start them myself. But I still don’t want to splurge on an expensive (albeit very attractive) seed starting station when I can set one up for a fraction of the cost.

Learn How to Set Up a Seed Starting Calendar

If you want to get an idea of how much it will cost to set up a similar system, check out the cost of these supplies through Amazon (below) and compare them to the cost of purchasing from a local hardware store. Keep in mind that LED lights will last longer and use less power than fluorescent bulbs, so they are more economical in the long run instead of replacing bulbs every year or two.

Do you start your own seedlings each year? Here’s how to start eco-friendly seedlings!

Check out my eBooks on Etsy!
‘Recipes for Your Garden: Save Money & Create Natural Garden Supplies’
’10 Simple Steps to Switch Your Garden to Organic’ eBook plus Planner & Workbook

How to Save Money with an Easy Seed Starting Station

6 Comments on “How to Save Money with an Easy Seed Starting Station

  1. we use something similar. my station is chrome as it is in our diningroom and has wheels to move it out when we have big suppers and need the space. we have all led lights now. one thing we do differently is to place the unit by a window. gets a little extra light that way. also, we us zip ties and velcro to tie up longer cords, feeding the 15 lights and heat mats into 2 plug strips which then plug into the timer which assures lights on for 16 hours a day. we start several hundred starts, even things like corn (in toilet paper tubes so the roots aren’t disturbed) because crows really like corn seedlings until they are about 6 inches high. also, starting some seeds really early lets me get 2 crops from some of the beds.

    1. That’s great! I like the idea of a chrome seed starting station next to a window in my living space instead of the basement. If only my house was a teensy bit bigger. 🙂

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  2. Not sure why bloggers do not put the date of writing the post in the post. It DOES matter when the post was written in order to determine how accurate it is, especially when giving dollar amounts for costs. The price of items pre-covid are VERY MUCH different than after. So, posts written in 2018, the costs are NOT going to be even close today, the beginning of 2022. The items may not even be AVAILABLE.
    Also, links to the items YOU have used in the photos, or suggested ones are extremely helpful, especially if the readers are not familiar with them.
    Not trying to be a negative person, but provide constructive criticism.

    1. From the Blogger’s perspective, we often don’t put the date on our posts because some people won’t read an old post. This was written about one year ago… in 2021. You can find the date of my posts by looking at the URL or ‘address’ of my post. I do apologize if the cost analysis is incorrect now… I haven’t had time to update the information.

  3. Thank you for this information, I have been wanting to get a seed starting station up and running. Maybe next year!

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