Cheap Seed Starting Table Plans

Free woodworking plans to build a small seed starting bench with lights or that can be placed in front of a south facing window.

Starting seeds indoors is fun and can save a lot of money. You also will have greater options on varieties that may not be available as plants locally.

This seed starting bench can be built for about $25 not including lights and is very sturdy. It can hold 2 1020 trays on each shelf for a total of 4 trays.

The height is right to fit in front of a window and benefit from good southern exposure to reduce the amount of time you need to have your lights on the top shelf. Here's a partially completed one I built out of some scrap lumber I had available from another project. I made some improvements to the plan which you can follow.

 You can use it with one or two 48" shop lights as grow lights. I'm currently only using 1 light. Most seeds don't need light to germinate. The way I use it is start with two trays for my tomatoes, eggplants and peppers on the top tray with a heating mat under them to speed germination. When the seedlings emerge I turn on the light for the top trays. About a month later I start my squash, zucchini, melons, etc on the lower shelf with the heat mat. By the time those later seedlings have germinated my tomatoes, eggplants and peppers have been transplanted to larger pots and moved outside. I then move those squash/melon trays up to the top shelf where they can get sun and artificial light.

What You'll Need


(2) 2x2 8' long furring strips
(2) 1x3 8' long furring strips
(1) 10' long 1/2" EMT conduit
(4) 1/2" EMT conduit straps
(2) S Hooks
(2) Screw Hooks
(4) 3/4" Pulleys
(4) 2-1/2" Cord Cleats
about 18' of 1/8" braided nylon cord 
Anti-Tip Straps


Kreg Pocket Hole Jig
Miter Saw
Tubing Cutter
3/8" Spacer

Cut List

(4) 35" 2x2 Legs
(8) 8-3/4" 2x2 Shelf Supports (Measure and cut these after building the frame)
(8) 5" 2x2 Shelf Corner Brackets
(4) 47" 1x3 Long Side Rails
(4) 8" 1x3 Short Side Rails

Cut Plan

Don't cut the 8-3/4" Shelf Supports until after you've assembled the legs and side rails in case you need to make adjustments to the cuts. If your window sills are a different height than mine you may want to adjust the height of your legs to bring the top of the table up to where it will get the most light through your windows.

Make sure your cuts are square and the lengths match so you wind up with a square bench. It's best to use a miter saw with some sort of stops so all the cuts are the same length were necessary. If you don't have a miter saw or a friend that can make the cuts for you I've had good experience in the past having lumber cut to size at Home Depot. Don't know if they can cut the angled pieces and the quality of the cutting is going to vary based on the skill of the person doing the cutting at your local store.

Step 1: Assemble Legs and Short Side Rails

Start by creating two leg assemblies each consisting of 2 legs and 2 Short Side Rails. One side rail will be flush with the top of the legs, the other will be positioned 6.5" up from the bottom of the legs.

To place the Short Side Rails (3/4" thickness) in the middle of the 2x2 legs (1-1/2" thickness) you need to place a 3/8" spacer underneath the Short Side Rails. (See Tile Top Plant Table Plans for more details.)

Use 4 pocket screws in the back of each Short Side Rail to attach to the legs. Before screwing it together, make sure everything fits together well and is square. When you're happy that everything fits right, apply wood glue to the ends of the Short Side Rail pieces then clamp back together and drive the 1-1/4" pocket screws on the Short Side Rails. Once the screws are in you can remove the clamps to use on the other side.

Step 2: Join Leg Assemblies

The two leg assemblies you made in step 1 will now be joined using the Long Side Rails. The set up is similar to the leg assemblies with the Long Side Rails sitting on 3/8" spacers.

Line up the 2 leg assemblies with the backs (side with the pocket holes) facing each other and lay the Long Side Rails on the floor over 3/8" spacers with the pocket holes facing up. Check for fit then glue, clam and screw together.

Flip the bench over and do the other side.

Step 3: Attach Shelf Supports

The table is fairly strong as is but I wanted to add some more rigidity to the table since there isn't going to be a traditional wooden top so cut sine 2x2 to fit in between the Long Side Rails as shown. Measure the distance between the two rails before making your cuts because the length may change depending on variances in the thickness of the wood and spacers used.

2 are place near the middle and then 2 more are placed between the middle and outside as shown in the illustration above. Make sure the tops of the shelf supports are flush with the top of the shelves.

You can screw or nail these in place. Because furring strips can split easily it's important to pre-drill holes if you're screwing or nailing them. I used a finish nailer.

Step 4: Attach Corner Brackets

The corner braces add a little more rigidity to the bench. Cut each so that they're about 5" long on the long end with an opposing 45 degree angle on each side then attach it to each corner. You can use pocket screws on the corner brackets or screw or nail from the side rails into the corner bracket. Again I used my finish nailer.

Step 5: Attach Light Supports

Cut the 10' long 1/2" metal conduit in half with a pipe cutter so you have 2 50" long pieces. Use 2 of the 1/2" Conduit Straps on each of the Short Side Rails to secure the conduit. Mark and measure the center of the Short Side Rails and make sure you're conduit is installed straight.

On the top Short Side Rail use 2 conduit straps as shown and install one of the cleats on the front side of the straps. Remember to pre-drill your holes before driving screws to prevent splitting the wood.

On the bottom offset the conduit strap on the bottom so that it acts as a rest for the bottom of the conduit to sit on.

You can cut some notches in the conduit or use some scrap wood to provide a more stable surface for the conduit to rest on. Drilling a hole through the conduit and into the wood will allow you to install a screw for an even more installation.

Step 6: Install Insulation

The rigid insulation will act as your bench top. In addition to providing a flat, rigid surface to set your trays on, the insulation will direct the heat from the heat mat up towards the trays for more efficient tray warming. This National Garden Wholesale Super Sprouter 2-Tray Seedling Heat Mat is the perfect size for this bench.

Cut the 2' x 8' Insulation board in half lengthwise so you have 2 12" wide pieces then trim to fit the top. There will be a little overhang on the front and the back and you'll need to trim the bottom shelf insulation to fit around the legs and light supports. You can attach the insulation to the table with some construction adhesive.

Step 7: Install lighting

For the top light, drill a small hole on the top of each length of conduit, insert an S hook and hang a pulley on it.

For the bottom light you can either either do the same as for the top light by drilling a small hole for an s hook in the conduit towards the bottom of the upper shelf or you can use screw hooks drilled and screwed into the underside of the top shelf.

Run the cord through the pulleys and attach to the lights. Leave enough length of cord to allow you plenty of room to raise and lower your lights. Tie off the end of the line to the cleats using a cleat hitch.

Step 8: Anti-Tip Straps

Provided the bench was assembled correctly it should be very stable but you may want to provide additional support especially if you have pets, children or live in an area prone to earthquakes. Follow the instructions on the Anti-Tip Straps to attach the bench to the wall or window sill to prevent it from accidentally tipping over.
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