DIY Seed Starting Shelf For Under $100

We are hoping to be able to have a garden this year but with all of the other massive off-grid projects we have going on, we aren’t sure how big of a garden we will have. However, last year on our urban homestead we started a massive garden and we grew 90% of it from seed. We came up with an inexpensive seed starting shelf system that worked really well for us.

I came up with something that you could order online and have delivered straight to your door, and it's only two products that add up to under $100.

For this project you will need:
- Scrap wood pieces
- Yarn or String 
- Timer (not necessary, but convenient) 

If you want to get fancy and more hands off, you could purchase a timer like we did. I used scrap wood and yarn that I already had, so you can probably find something around the house to use instead of those things. Anything that is straight and rigid could be used. Think scrap metal, extra PVC pipe, wood, etc.

I found this shelf on Amazon and it seemed perfect for what I needed. I wanted to be able to put trays on the shelves, I needed some holes in the shelves to be able to attach the lights to, and I didn't want to spend a lot of money.

You also need to have a specific kind of light. I did a lot of research about what kind you need for your seedlings and found these lights that replicate the perfect amount of daylight.

If you are in a place where you really have to consider your electricity use (like most of us off-griders) these lights use 20W per light. That isn’t too bad when you are talking about 1 light, but having more lights will start to add up. You could certainly nix the lights and put the shelf near a window and rely on daylight itself. But if you have the power, this setup will use about 160W per hour it’s on. A good solution might be to use the daylight in the daytime and then use the lights when the sun goes down. It’s important for your seedlings to get about 14-16 hours of daylight, so the supplemental light would be really helpful.

Once you have your shelf and lights, all that's left to do is assemble your setup. First start by assembling the shelf, which is very simple and self explanatory.

Next, use the provided light clips and attach them to your materiel of choice. Because I used wood, I just screwed the clips onto the wood without pre-drilling. If you use another material you may have to pre-drill a hole.

I have 8 lights over 4 shelves, so I need 8 pieces of wood. Each wood gets 2 clips screwed on in the exact same place on each piece. This is so I can attach 2 lights.

Once the clips were attached, I clipped in the lights. Make sure the wood pieces are spaced out toward the edge rather than the middle. This part can be a little finicky as the clips can get stretched out when you screw them in. When this happened all i did was pinch the two side pieces together. Once you get started on this project, you will really understand what i mean.

The lights can all be connected together with the provided cords. There are instructions, but it’s pretty intuitive also. One light will have a cord with a plug on it and then the rest connect to each other with the interconnecting cords.
I tied four pieces of yarn on each set of lights- two on each end. Then I took the yarn and looped it through the shelf above and tied them as evenly as possible. I also only tied them with a bow (not a knot) so that i could untie them and lower or raise the lights as needed. When you start your seeds the lights will need to be really close to the soil. As the seedlings grow you will need to raise the lights higher so they don’t burn the tender leaves.

And that’s about it! You could really do this with any shelf you already have and just buy the lights. I know when I did some research for something similar to this that you didn’t have to DIY, it was pretty expensive for some lights and a shelf. The key is getting the correct lights that mimic daylight. Warm lighting will not work here! 

Let us know if you try this DIY and how it works out for you! Leave us any questions in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Instant Shed Build With Heartland Sheds

Today we are sharing our experience with getting a shed installed with Heartland Sheds. Full disclosure this shed was provided at no cost to us in return for our documenting the process on our blog and social media channels. As always all thoughts and opinions are our own.

We have needed a shed for YEARS!!! A few years ago we had our old shed torn down with the intentions of having a new one built quickly afterwards. That clearly didn't happen but we finally got one and we are so excited!! 
Let's talk about the process of having Heartland Sheds coming and build a shed for us. So when you go onto Heartland's website you'll pick out the shed/building that you want. We got the Classic Shed in the 12X16 size. Once you order it, someone from Heartland will contact within 3 business days to schedule your installation. Our installation date was 6 weeks from the time we ordered our shed. 

After that you need to check your backyard and have an area leveled that will fit the dimensions of the shed. You will need to make sure that the builders have 3 feet of space on all sides. So you don't want to level out a space right next to a fence or another building. The builders need to be able to move around when they are assembling your shed. 

The picture above here is the area we chose to have the shed built. What you can't really tell in this picture is how sloped our backyard is. The only other level area in our backyard was right next to the long white garden beds by our deck/patio area. Savannah did a mock up on Photoshop to show what the shed would look like in different places in our backyard. The space we chose is the only place where it didn't look weird.

We hired a company to come and create a level place to build the shed. It cost $600 to have someone level this massive area. I was honestly thinking it was going to cost more because of how much ground they had to dig. The downside is that it has left this part of our backyard a total mess. We still haven't gotten around to laying down grass seed. 

The guys that came out to level the ground also marked out the area where the shed was going to be built so that was nice. Having that big area cleared out really changed the slope of our backyard. 

Once installation day arrived the Heartland shed people got right to work. They had this platform built so quickly. It was pretty incredible watching them build the shed.

All of the wood comes pre cut and ready to assemble so that makes things go a lot quicker. There were 4 people to get the shed built. 

The builders were here for about 8 hours. Overall we had a really positive experience with Heartland Sheds. The only thing I would do differently is to have them paint the shed. When we were negotiating the terms of our agreement that's not something we worked in and I wish we would have just paid them to do it. Painting the shed only took an afternoon so it wasn't the worst thing we've had to do. But it sat unfinished in our backyard for about a month. What is great about Heartland Sheds is that they are primed, so you don't have to worry about that step.

Now we've got to finish moving all the things all over house that need to permanently live in the shed. Our studio in our house is full of items that have just been waiting to have a shed to be stored inside. It's a slow going process because this is the busiest time for us in the Stock Tank Pool Authority world and the gardening world. We cleaned up our deck though and it was amazing how much stuff we could put in the shed and not have sitting all over our deck. So grateful!

If your wanting a shed, we recommend checking out Heartland Sheds. Also check our You Tube video above where we talk about our experience with Heartland. Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to follow us on all our socials. We're most active on Instagram, and we're on TikTok now and we share a lot of gardening info there. 

5 Seed Starting Tips

If you've gone to a garden center and spent $20 bazillion dollars on plant starts, you'll quickly understand the value of starting your own. If 2020 taught us anything, it's that nothing is certain anymore. I know that's a super depressing thought, but the reality is some of us couldn't even find toilet paper last year. Seed companies had their highest sales ever last year because all of these people became interested in growing their own food. You will save hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars growing food from seed instead of buying plant starts. However, I know it can be overwhelming to get started. Below are 5 tips for starting your own seeds. It's not as scary as you think! 

1. Utilize whatever you have. Obviously you aren't going to have everything you need to start seeds as you'll have to get a growing medium like sterile soil or coconut coir. But, seeds can be started in a lot of different containers. You can use old yogurt cups and poke holes in the bottom or solo cups with holes poked in them. Basically any container you'd like to reuse that can have holes poked or drilled into the bottom will work. You can even make your own newspaper pots like we did here.

2. Read the seed packet. Most seed packets have tons of information on it specific to whatever seed you have. Every now and then I'll get a seed packet that I've ordered online that won't have any information on it, but that is pretty rare. You should be able to find things like how early you should start your seeds inside, or if you should really just plant them outside. If a seed needs light to germinate, it will say that. Same with darkness. If it doesn't specify, chances are the seed needs to be covered. Your seed packet will also tell you when to move seedlings outside, how far to space plants, and maybe even what the plant should look like. But if there is any crucial information about the specific plant you are growing, you will find it on the seed packet. If you have doubts about any of these things or your seed packets doesn't list something you have a question, head to the internet! First start out checking the seed company's website for your seed type, but if you can't find what you need there, take it to google.

3. Dampen your soil before starting. You always want to start with well hydrated soil. Once your seeds are planted, you aren't going to want to pour a bunch of water on top as the seeds can dislodge and float higher or sink deeper into the soil. If a seed is too far down, it will not be able to germinate properly. (Depending on what seed it is, of course.) You want your soil to hold together when you squeeze it in your hand, but at the same time not drip any water out when you squeeze it. My favorite method is putting my soil in a 5 gallon bucket and then spraying water on top and working it in with a trowel. You can also use your hands!

4. Lighting is key! Once you've planted your seeds, you have to have a light source. We use these lights. You don't need to buy lights that are specifically grow lights. They are much more expensive. We had great success with our LED lights. Lighting is so important for the success of your seedlings. If you have a room with a sky light, you could possibly put your seeds right under that window (I'm talking 2" away from), but for the most part, windows are not enough. This is because all seedlings will start growing toward the light and become really leggy. They just will not grow straight up. Leggy seedlings are no bueno!

5. Don't start them too early! Oooh wee starting your seeds too early can really put you in a pickle! If you are in an area that has a long growing season like us (zone 7A) you have a little more freedom in when you start your seeds. People with shorter growing seasons have less leeway. On your seed packet it will say something like "start seeds 8-12 weeks before last frost." And last year we started all of our seeds in further away time. So if it said 8-12 weeks, we chose 12 weeks. I'm here to tell you to just choose 8 weeks. Your seedlings will grow surprisingly fast and 8 weeks is plenty of time to get the healthy and grown before transitioning outside. That extra 4 weeks is time you have to spend up-potting your seedlings because they've outgrown their pot. And if you have more than a couple seedlings, this takes a lot of work, time, and space to make happen. We spent the last 4-6 weeks before it finally stopped freezing (because bonus, our last frost date was not our last frost) trying to keep our seedlings alive and it was too much! So this year we are starting seeds way later and it's definitely something to consider yourself.

BONUS TIP! When you are brand new to growing your own food and/or flowers, getting all the seeds you want can be pretty expensive. This is when we suggest joining a seed swap! The best places I have found seed swaps is on Instagram.

ANOTHER BONUS TIP! When you are admiring your beautiful garden this summer, make sure you save some seeds from the fruits of your labor. You can use those seeds next year. Saving seeds is free and produces WAY more than what comes in a seed packet!

Don't get overwhelmed when starting seeds. Make sure you read the packet and follow the instructions and you will see magic happen. Watching a plant grow from seed and then being able to feed your friends + family off what you grew, is truly rewarding and worth all the hard work.

*** This blog post contains affiliate links. So if you buy an item using one of our links, we earn a teeny tiny portion of that sale. We appreciate all purchases you make through our links as it helps us provide you with this free content.