Seed starting in the house

This time of year I get lots of questions about starting seeds, what methods to use, my success rate and I love having these conversations and bouncing ideas back and forth! While I wouldn’t rule out a method just because someone had bad luck, it takes a lot of patience and testing to find what works best for YOU.

This is year three of my intensive seed starting in the laundry room. Some of the things I battle in this space are dry air conditions and fluctuating temperatures. Our house is on radiant heat which is a very dry heat, and the laundry room where my seed shelves are is thinly insulated, so is prone to heating up on those surprise sunny and unseasonably warm days.

I use one 48-inch shelving system that has four shelves, three of which I have added lights to. A 48-inch wide shelf allows enough room for four standard size seed starting trays. The standard size tray comes in many configurations and number of cells. A common size is 72-cells, but there are many options on either side of that. For my purposes, I won’t use any bigger than a 50 cell tray because the plant is actually so much bigger, it makes it more difficult to transplant into my burned ground cover.

This year I am trying to soil block more to optimize my limited space. I am using the Ikea cafeteria trays, and 6 of them can fit on one shelf. So in terms of plants grown per shelf, I can increase from 288 plants in 4, 72-cell trays up to 720 plants if I fill six trays with 120 soil blocks!

The shelves I assembled are outfitted with regular 48″ shop lights that would ordinarily be mounted to the ceiling and hardwired. The light boxes are hardwired together, so it will be a SUPER annoying task of moving the shelves some day, but for now, they are controlled by a smart switch that I can program on an app on my phone. The lights automatically come on at 6am, and stay on until 10pm and I do not have to flick a switch or even be home.

For light bulbs, I use one warm and one cool bulb to provide the full spectrum of light (you can see a subtle yellow and blue hue to each bulb in the photo above). Brad helped me drill holes in the steel shelves so I could hang hooks and chains for the lights. This allows me to control the height of the lights! Small plants grown under artificial light need the light source very close to prevent the plants from reaching for the light, becoming stringy and weak.

I’ll pause there on this edition before I deep dive into the actual seed starting and soil mix. Each and EVERY situation and limitation is different. A lot of this process is unfortunately trial and error. So while you’re scrolling your favourite seed site ready to order something to start, order double. Trust me 🙂