Lights, Camera, Action… Spring!

After spending January pouring through seed catalogs and making my choices, I arrived at a decision. Yes, I will start seeds inside this winter, last year’s debacle notwithstanding! My problem? I didn’t want to end up in the garage on a single shelf, in a too-cold space, and insufficient light.

To the rescue – gardening and hydroponic supply companies. But good grief, the cost to set up even a small growing station in my basement! I needed to find an inexpensive solution for both shelving and lighting.


This is the result. For less than half the cost of the least expensive ‘catalog’ option, I have a solution that seems to work. Never mind the pain involved in selecting lights. I spent a long weekend reading articles about LED vs. florescent lights, foot-candles, and lumens.

I read a lot of frankly conflicting information. The article I found most helpful came from the Alaska Extension. Simply put, the article suggested that using florescent lights worked as well as anything and cost less than specialized plant lights. For those who want more information, an in-depth article is available from the University of Missouri Extension.


Once we set up our shelving and lights – available from a local big box store – I had a minor meltdown over trays. I’m starting seeds in my basement with the proviso that there be no mess, which made waterproof trays essential. I finally found some locally but again, costing more than I wanted to spend. Amazon to the rescue! Ten trays for a couple of dollars each. Nice!


I mixed up a batch of chamomile tea for watering and put some lettuce seeds in soil rather than seed starter. I have a theory – as yet untested – that since I direct sow in the ground, in soil, I don’t need the added step of seed starter. Makes sense? And it seems to be working. Here’s the start of my early salad.


I’m waiting for more seed packets to arrive by mail. And I feel like no matter what the calendar says, spring has begun.


13 thoughts on “Lights, Camera, Action… Spring!

  1. Sorry, you need soilless mix to start seeds. Outdoors you have the sterilizing effect of the sun and hydrostatics at work. Indoors in containers, your ‘dirt’ harbors disease organisms, weed seeds and won’t drain properly. I love to be proven wrong when I’m pessimistic, but if you check .edu sites, they are unanimous in recommending soilless mixes for seed-starting.

  2. Yippee! It all looks great and a wonderful way to while away the wintry hours waiting for Spring. Good luck. I agree with the fluorescent lights, and I’m curious to see how your experiment works out.

  3. Bernard Armstrong, the ‘king’ of all seed starters, always used a potting soil seed starting medium but it has to have one important ingredient … A WETTING AGENT in the mix. His complete method is fail proof, at least for me … We will chat! just because you CAN successfully start all seeds doesn’t mean you have to start literally thousands of seedlings, and beg people to take them later …

  4. I have used a very similar set up with fluorescent tubes from a hardware store for the last 3 years and have been able to grow all my seedlings, flower and veg, in the basement with great success! They do just as well as the one expensive plant light I bought to compare. They are Phillips Natural Light, 2850 Lumens, 82 colour renderings, 5000k colour temp according to the box. I don’t get many blossoms indoors, but that is perfect for me! My expensive plant light is 2000 lumens and 6400k, pretty close for a tenth of the price! Good luck!

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