Build a DIY Seed-Starting Station to Begin Your Garden Indoors

Assemble a mobile station for nurturing seedlings and stashing garden gear.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Get ready for outdoor planting season with a DIY seed-starting station. This mobile unit, which starts with a simple set of shelves, provides the light and warmth that seedlings need to thrive before being relocated to the garden. We placed seed-starting trays on two of the shelves, leaving the other storage space free for stashing extra potting mix, planters, watering cans, and other gardening tools. Follow the steps below to build your own seed station and get a jump on gardening.

Once you've assembled your DIY seed station and started planting, be sure to keep your seed packets and follow all growing directions. The packet will list the best time to start each type of seed so the seedling will be ready to be transplanted into the garden when the soil temperatures are warm enough for it to thrive in your region.

What You'll Need


  • 1 48x72x18-inch five-tier shelving unit
  • 4 4-inch industrial casters
  • 1 Seed-starting trays and domes
  • 1 Seed-starting soilless mix
  • 1 Seeds
  • 1 King-size heating pad
  • 2 48-inch shop light fixtures
  • 4 Full-spectrum grow-light bulbs
  • 1 Electrical timer
  • 1 Waterproof trays


  1. Assemble Shelving Unit

    DIY Seed Station supplies
    Jacob Fox

    Following the manufacturer's directions, assemble the shelving unit where you will use it, such as a basement or other heated room. Add casters so you can easily reposition it to add trays or make watering easier. Optional: To ensure good airflow around seedlings, post an oscillating fan near your shelving unit for broad, continuous coverage that will minimize fungus and promote strong roots.

  2. Plant Seeds

    Close up of switch
    Jacob Fox

    Fill the seed-starting trays with the soilless seed-starting mix; plant seeds. Plant two or three seeds per cell; not all will germinate. Cover the trays with the clear plastic domes to retain moisture. Place a heating pad, turned to a low setting, under the seed-starting trays to create gentle bottom heat that speeds sprouting. Another option: pick a heating pad designed for seedlings, which will raise the temperature 10°F-20°F beneath the tray to speed germination by several days.

  3. Assemble Light Fixtures

    Put together both shop light fixtures. You can use 40-watt fluorescent tube bulbs, combining one cool white and one warm bulb, to provide a full spectrum of light, or go with more expensive LED grow-light bulbs that best mimic sunlight.

  4. Hang Lights

    Close up of small red planters under light
    Jacob Fox

    After inserting the selected bulbs, suspend the fixtures from the bottom side of the two shelves, adjusting the fixture chains. Hang the lights so they will distribute the light as evenly as possible from the center of the flat to the edges. The amount of distance between the lights and the plants will depend on the bulbs' intensity. In general, hang fluorescent bulbs 3-12 inches above the seedlings. LED bulbs vary widely, so follow the manufacturer's directions.

  5. Install a Timer

    Install a timer to turn the lights on and off. Seedlings should receive 14-16 hours of light daily. An automatic timer helps you easily stick to a regular schedule.

  6. Water Plants

    Person watering plants
    Jacob Fox

    Line each shelf or seed-starting flat with a watertight tray to prevent moisture from dripping onto the floor or the heating pad. Water plants from the bottom to promote healthy growth and to keep the seed-starting mix damp but not soggy. Fill the tray about a quarter to a third full of water to keep the soil mix moist (avoid overfilling). When two sets of "true" leaves appear, thin out any weak or crowded seedlings so the remaining plants will have enough room to grow. Then start applying a water-soluble fertilizer once a week.

  7. Prepare Seedlings for Outdoors

    A week or two before you want to plant the seedlings outdoors, prepare them by hardening them off. Take them outside to a partially shaded location to soak up the sunlight each day (too much sun right away can burn the leaves). Increase the outdoor time about an hour per day for a week or two, until it's time to plant.

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