Using an Indoor Seed Starting Setup (2024)

As I’m writing this, there’s a steady rain pouring outside, which is truly my favorite weather for staying indoors and starting seeds in Winter. This indoor seed starting setup is something I’ve wanted for a long time, but finding space in my 700 square foot home was always a struggle. If you’ve been a longtime blog reader, you’ll know that I’ve tried a wide variety of seed starting setups over the years—outdoor cold frame, sunny window, hybrid variations, garage, etc.—and so, I’ve been really anxious to try a fully indoor seed starting setup.

Before I go on, I do want to clarify. There is not only one way to start seeds. If anything, my history is proof of that. Instead, I’d say that seed starting is very depending on our circ*mstances, resources, and lifestyles. For example, I didn’t feel comfortable devoting a whole room to seed starting in my small home, so that’s how I ended up with last year’s garage seed starting setup (which worked well for me). In fact, the main reason I’m switching to an indoor setup this year is because a) I hadn’t tried it before b) I wanted to be able to share and demonstrate one here on the blog and c) the garage experiences more temperature swings this time of year and is considerably colder than my house. My goal was to see if having a more compact, streamlined indoor seed starting setup would just make my life easier!

The Basics of an Indoor Seed Starting Setup

Today I’m starting some of my cut flowers indoors, along with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants if desired. Since some of last year’s eggplants are still hanging out in the garden, I’m not really sure I want to plant more this year! Later next month is when I’ll start more seeds, and local gardeners can check out my personal seed schedule (available to subscribers of my email list) for more specifics.

Starting in January, I did a test run of this indoor seed starting setup and was really thrilled with the results (pictured below)! I grew various types of early Spring crops—like napa cabbage, kale, and more broccoli— to replenish the garden before our Summer growing season begins. Overall, I was very impressed by the quality of the seedlings and am excited to get some Summer seeds going finally!

To start, here’s a supply list for what I used to create this indoor seed starting setup:

Equipment for this indoor seed starting setup:

Greenhouse shelf

Grow lights

Timer for the lights

Heat mat and Thermostat Kit

Fan *the one we have is not available online, so I’ve linked a compatible one

Seed Cells/Trays/Pots (we love these Epic 6-Cell seed starting trays)

Watering trays

Optional: extension cords

These are the early spring crops I started using this setup in January. I’m very happy with the results! Sorry for the awkward photo, as I only had photos on my phone and had to crop them weird to fit the blogpost.

Safety Considerations

Without going into lots of detail, yes, grow lights can be irritating and damaging to the eyes. For me personally, I’m also sensitive to bright lighting anyway. I’d avoid putting your setup in a room that will be used throughout the day and keep the grow light staring to a minimum 😉

You probably know that water and electricity don’t mix. If you are planning to use a grow light in a humid or moist area, make sure to find one that is waterproof or rated for that type of setting (my home is not humid, nor do I plan to grow in that type of setting). Additionally, connecting to grounded outlets is important!

Lastly, be aware of the amount of heat emitted by your grow lights. Some emit more heat than others. Don’t keep flammable things nearby, and be careful of keeping your plants too close as they can burn. Each set of grow lights comes with manufacturer’s specs, so just be sure to read those.

Starting Summer Seeds Indoors

So, I really only use an indoor seed starting setup during the months of January-March/April. Aside from that, Southern California has great weather for doing a more hybrid type of seed starting if desired (outdoors during the day, indoors at night), or even fully outdoors during the early Summer and Fall (I’ve got a little grow-along over on my YouTube channel for that season). February is the month I typically start peppers—notorious for needing heat to germinate and can take a longer time to grow—and tomatoes and eggplants. Truly, I try not to rush warm weather crops. In my experience, starting too early has far more drawbacks than starting too late.

But today I’m going to use the rainy day and the desire to get this blogpost finished, as an excuse to start a large batch of seeds so I can demonstrate this really neat indoor seed setup and hopefully get you inspired for Summer gardening!

Let’s Assemble Everything & Start Seeds!

First and foremost, I chose this more compact greenhouse for my seed starting “shelf”. Initially, I looked into buying metal shelving that I’ve seen a lot of people use for seed starting. Most of the sets I saw were either too expensive or too large for what I had in mind. Circling back to when I mentioned that seed starting isn’t “one size fits all,” remember that I’m a backyard gardener that doesn’t have the need to start hundreds or thousands of seedlings. Another thing I liked about the greenhouse is the size and amount of shelves. It fits really nicely in the corner of the room and is pretty compact. Additionally, I didn’t need something with wheels, but I also won’t say no to something being easily moveable.

Please note, I am not using the cover for the greenhouse. In my room, the cover would just be too warm and stifle airflow.

Here’s a little overview of our very basic indoor seed starting setup. It’s been previously tested with some early spring crops (and a few experimental tomatoes) but is now ready for summer seedlings!

Using an Indoor Seed Starting Setup (2024)
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