Growing Seeds Under Supplemental Lighting

Posted · 15 Comments


Good morning garden soldiers!  I was a little concerned thinking I was way behind starting my seeds.  Excitedly, I’m not late at all!  I still have some seeds to order and throughout the next 2 weeks will be in the process of germinating and placing my seedlings under supplemental lighting in my basement.

To all of you that are starting your seeds indoors the best place to let your seedlings take off is under natural light.  If you have a sunroom or a large south facing window this will work great!  In my case, I don’t have adequate lighting, so I have built my own growing area with artificial lights.  It’s super easy to do and very cost efficient.  Gardening magazines and supply stores sell beautiful glow ‘n grow light gardens.  However, they range anywhere from $200 – $500.  These systems can be replicated at home for a fraction of the cost using ordinary shop lights and florescent bulbs.

This will be my third year starting seedlings indoors.  Every year I buy a new set at Walmart to keep my costs down and only grow what I can under the lights that I have.  The shop light cost $10 and the florescent bulbs cost $6.97.  Super affordable!!

This is my setup that I currently have and worked out great last year.

My husband suspended the shop lights from the ceiling over a long fold out table.

I did have to raise up my platform in order to keep my seedlings 2 inches away from the light source.  They need to be very close to the light and warmth.  The lights also need to be able to adjust higher as the seedlings grow.

Since my setup is in my basement and I live in Iowa, I needed an extra source of heat especially for my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  It’s way to cold in my basement to encourage their growth.  Placing a heater directly underneath my table worked out great and raised the soil temps.  I have also read about some gardeners using a cool and a warm bulb under each shop light.  I may give this a try this year and see how it turns out.  Has anyone used this method before?

The last and most important piece of equipment that you will need is a light timer 😉

Generally, seedlings need about 16 hours of light a day.  Setting your lights on a timer makes this a thoughtless process and one less thing to worry about.

This year, I am actually upgrading!  My hubby will be working on my new setup this weekend.  A bakers shelf with the lighting suspended above each unit.  This will enable me to grow more variety of plants.  Here is an image of the setup that I will be using this year. Photo from Skippy’s Vegetable Garden.

Stick with me as next week, I am going to go through the technical issues (heat, airflow, fertilizer, and water) in my next post, tending your seedlings.  Utilizing an indoor system like this and tending to your seedlings will take your little germinated seeds from cotelydon leaves (the first leaves that appear) to two true leaves and the beginning of a plant!

Update: As you’ll find out soon… once you start you only get bigger. Here’s my new setup:

Starting Seeds Indoors |

Part 1: Ordering Seed Catalogs
Part 2: Understanding the differences between Heirloom, Hybrid, GMO, and Organic Seeds
Part 3: Planting Zones, Frost Dates, and Planting Calendars
Part 4. Understanding Succession Planting
Part 5. Spring Time is Near! It’s Time to Start Those Seedlings!
Part 6. Growing Seeds Indoors Under Supplemental Lighting
Part 7. Tending your seedlings
Part 8. Methods of Urban Gardening

15 Responses to "Growing Seeds Under Supplemental Lighting"
  1. Amy says:

    I put my seed tray on a heating pad set on low to warm up the soil. I am glad that I read this post because I was wondering what the heck I was going to do with the next batch of seeds I start. But your bakers shelf idea reminded me I have some shelves that I can utilize to keep all my seeds on until they can go outside. Thanks for the brainstorm!

  2. April says:

    I planted a few weeks ago..I think a few weeks early..but live and learn. I am chalking this year up as my experimental year since it is my first garden. I did get a shop like with the sunshine bulbs and hung it from the shelf over my washer and dryer. That is where all my seedling are right now. I do have sprouts all over the place though! :) I am loving watching them grow from just a little pod of dirt to a sprout and some of them already into little plants!

  3. My Little Space says:

    Wow, you're all ready for seeding! No jokes, it's all fully equiped. All the best, sweetie!

  4. the wicked noodle says:

    I'm SO glad you posted this since I've been putting off starting on this. Thanks for the push I needed! :-)

  5. pity says:

    unfortunately i dont have much space here in london, but i am interested in your progress, so keep us posted, cheers

  6. Erin from Long Island says:

    ~*perfect*~ timing! I just started my spring seeds germinating (green beans, cilantro, brocoli, marjoram) and will be starting more seeds in a day or two. I never have much success with veggie plants I start from seed but hopefully your guide will help! How far should the inside lights be from the seedlings? I need to get some sort of fixture to hold a bulb or two

  7. Núria says:

    Wow, you are soooooo enthusiastic about it! Love to read about your progress in the indoor gardening… sounds superb, Diana!!!

    It's a great idea and can't wait to see how the seeds grow :D.

    Muchas gracias por tus comentarios en mi blog. Siento no haber contestado antes. Espero que vuestro viaje a Andalucía sea maravilloso. Yes, it's a pity we cannot meet… I would love to see you and invite you to some tapas ;D

  8. Fresh Local and Best says:

    When I lived in San Francisco, I used to start my seeds above the kitchen cabinets because the ledge was so close to the fluorescent light, it was a warm place and I was going to have the lights on anyway. LOL!

  9. Sustainable Eats says:

    So excited for you – finally you get to act on that desire to grow! It' so important to begin gardening even if under lights. It means spring is finally coming. :)

    did you mean you are adding a new set of lights each year? that is smart to slowly expand and not jump in all at once.

  10. Rachael says:

    This is a concept I had never considered, but now I'm dying to try! THANK YOU! XOXO

  11. Cristie says:

    Thank you for all this insight into planting. It is a miracle to see the little things grow!

  12. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction says:

    Great post! Love all of your tips… I think we are going to primarily stick to herbs in our garden this year (since we went with a large CSA share), and I think I might start some of them inside!

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