Do you dream of a huge set of seed starting shelves filled to the brim with plants under multiple sets of grow lights? You could save money, start your own seeds, and stick it to Old Man Winter.
But the reality is, there’s just no space in your small home!! Or you have one decent window to seed start, but there’s barely even a ledge. What do you do now? Resign yourself to a life of expensive starters?
Not you my friend.
You’re going to DIY yourself a seed starting shelf in your window frame. (Or order one from us, more details at the end!)
Seed Starting Shelves without Grow Lights!?!
Yes, it is possible!
This design fits right into your window frame. All you need is a minimum 1 1/4″ window ledge and a South-facing window. West and East facing windows can work too, but heat loving vegetables will not be as successful.
Grab the listed supplies, set aside an afternoon, and you’ll have your own DIY seed starting rack in your window before you know it!
Step One: Measure the Window
Measure the length and width of the window you plan on installing the shelf in. Make sure that your vertical measurement is straight!!
Materials and Tools
The dimensions in the following list are based on the windows in our house. You will need more or less wood depending on the height and width of your windows.
- Measuring Tape
- 3/4″ Drill bit
- Circular Saw or Hand Saw with a Mitre Box
- 3/4″ Wooden dowel
- 1×6 Shelving board
- 2×2 board
- Wooden shims
- Hammer, for tapping the rack in place.
- Safety glasses
- 80 Grit Sand paper
- Optional: Wood Glue
Cut the 2×2 board(s) just short of the height measurement of the window, so you have 2 same-sized pieces.
Determine where you want the shelves to be on the 2×2 pieces, starting from the bottom up. Leave at least 12″ between shelves and the top of the window to allow room for the plants to grow.
Mark the spots on the 2×2, making sure both pieces are marked at the same height.
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Drill 3/4″ holes through the 2×2’s at those marks. (Remember the shelf sits on top of the dowels–adjust your height accordingly.) To avoid tear out, drill partway through on one side until you see the tip of the drill bit. Turn the wood over and drill on the other side.
Cut the dowel into 6 1/4″ pieces, one for each hole. We made six holes for 3 shelves, but you may need more or less, depending on the size of your window.
Cut the shelves to the width you’d like to fit inside your window.
If your window is wider than 3 feet and you’d like the shelves to span the full width of the window, you should build a third support. It is tricky to make the shelf level with a third support, so we don’t recommend going wider than 3 feet if you’re a beginner woodworker.
Sand all edges of the pieces to get rid of any splinters or sharp corners.
Starting your seeds without a grow light? Here’s how to do it.
Fit the dowels into the holes, making them all flush with the back side.
Place wooden shim on top of window. Tap the vertical supports into place with a hammer, wedging the support in place. Tap another wedge in the other side to fully secure it. Repeat the process for the other support.
Place the shelf on top of the dowels.
We have not provided any instructions for securing the shelves or dowels, as the intention with this project is that it is totally removable and folds up into as little space as possible at the end of the growing season. If you have pets or kids who would likely get into shelf, you can secure the dowels with wood glue, and screw the shelves in place.
Finally, add your seed starting containers and enjoy your new shelf!
A quick disclaimer: Please use common sense and do not overload your shelf!! While it’s designed to be as stable as possible, only use light-weight containers for your seedlings. Place plants starting in the centre of each shelf and then at the ends to avoid tipping. (Unless you have chosen to screw your shelves in place.)
There’s another way to start seeds when you have no space and light in your house.. . here’s how.
It’s still too early to start most of my seeds, so all I currently have on it is my peppers, artichokes, a couple of vines I’m propagating, and some of my small succulent planters.
If you’d like to know more about starting seeds from your window, you’ll love this guide.
Then head over to this post about where to buy your seeds online.
So, what do you think? Would you make something like this?
If you’re local to Saskatoon, SK, Canada, the Hermit is taking orders for these seed starting racks. Email [email protected] to get on the list of pre-orders.
Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots. She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden. She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.