Use Seed Starting Benches To Extend Your Gardening SeasonBy AboutBenches.com editor
With the spring approaching here it's time to to think about starting seeds indoors. Apparently you can do this even in other seasons for various reasons - for example to make it easier to figure out the seeds from weeds, or to plant the seedlings in a mulched area. But spring is of course the most intensive seed starting period.
My first efforts to start seeds indoors weren't very successful for two reasons: low temperatures at home, and not enough light. While you probably won't keep your kitchen to the extreme cold we had this winter (between 30F and 45F), it's unlikely also to have the heat that seed starting requires for best results.
But much bigger problem with winter seed starting is light. During the winter the light that comes from the window is not enough for starting seeds. Even if it's a southern window. Plants need more light to grow well and you will need to provide them with artificial light. This is where seed starting benches come.
Let's see in details what a seed starting bench needs to do:
Most seed starting benches look like a mix of a stand and a potting bench. There are several important things you would expect from a seed starting bench:
- Preferably it should have at least 2-3 floors to allow you start more seeds without occupying much space at home.
- The bench should be stable, maybe attached to the wall. So you don't accidentally crash into it and squander your loved seedlings on the floor.
- The bench should not be near a heater or radiator. Plants like hot weather but not too hot.
- The bench needs light on every floor. The most economical light is produced by the long luminescent bulbs. You will need to leave them on for 15-16 hours per day so lamps efficiency does matter. And, if possible the lights should be movable. So you can keep them very close to the seedlings as they grow.
- In some occasions heating pads may be useful, for example if the temperature in the room where the bench is becomes too low.
A sample design
Here's an idea how to build a bench for seedlings. I think this is pretty simple and no need to draw so I'll just describe it.
You need four vertical beams about 4-5 ft long, for the legs. Four horizontal joists on each floor will connect the legs and serve as base for each shelf. You can make the bench as long as you wish but don't make it too wide. It will be hard to arrange and lighten the seedlings on rafters wider than a foot or so. Make the rafters from hardwood boards, clipboard, or anything that you have on hand.
In a simple version of this design you can attach the lights right at the bottom of the shelves. This of course means their position will be fixed. They will light the shelve under them. Obviously you will need one shelve at the top as well.
A better design would be dynamic. It's not a good idea to make the entire shelves movable. It's better to attach the lights to a splint and allow them to be adjusted instead. A metal splint with bolts and nuts thats let you precisely put the lamps anywhere you wish will be best.
Links, Sources and Ideas
Here are some other useful sources if you are interested in starting seeds at home:
- A detailed guide to building a two-floor one. But there is lighting only on the top floor.
- Here is one that's closer to my idea albeit it's again with only one lighted floor.
- If you have low room temperatures like us, here is how to make bottom heats for the seedlings.
- And here is a decent general guide on starting seeds at home.