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The Basement Seed Starting Area

January 26th, 2012

This past weekend I spent some time cleaning up the basement seed starting area. Last year, a few of you asked about seeing it, so here it is. My seed starting area always starts out neat and tidy in January, but slowly descends into chaos as more and more seeds get started and as the gardening season ramps up. Add to that all the plants that get hurriedly carried in when the weather turns cold in the fall and it can get to be quite a mess. It remains that way until January, when I head down with my mop to clean it all up for the new season. I’ve always got a furry helper by my side “helping” me with the chores so it’s not so bad (this time it was Dexter).

My seed starting area consists of a collection of random items that have been given to me throughout the years. The table I use is an old enameled top table that was left in the first house my parents purchased, it’s much older and I am (probably by 2 or maybe 3). It’s quirky and interesting, I’ve loved it since I was a kid. This table used to sit under our laundry shoot in our old house with a basket on top.

My light shelf was given to me a few years ago by my mom when she got a new one. One tray has been removed and replaced with a piece of plywood topped by a heating mat for those seeds that appreciate some warmth, like: peppers, tomatoes, onions, etc. Head on over to the Your Day Blog to read my post about how this seed table recently taught me a valuable lesson.

After sweeping, mopping, dusting and cleaning up, everything was back in order and ready for the coming season, which officially started on Tuesday (more on that tomorrow). It’s nice to have this little corner of the basement set up as a seed starting area, it’s quite cold down there since our basement in unheated, but with a heating mat for the warm loving crops everything does just fine!

Do you have a dedicated seed starting area?

A seedling heating mat seedling heating mat is money well spent if your seed starting area is in a cold area of the house. I have this 20-3/4-Inch by 48-Inch which accommodates 4 flats of seeds, you only need to keep the trays on the mat until the majority of the seeds germinate.

19 Comments to “The Basement Seed Starting Area”
  1. Kathi Cook on January 26, 2012 at 7:59 am

    My sewing room (4 by 6 ft) with one west facing window. I have a grow light ,but have never used it. The window is enough for me to start several dozen tomato plants. I am constantly turning them,petting them etc. I end up keeping about 15 plants and give the rest aaway. Every year I say I am just goingg to grow what I need but it never happens. It is a joy to give them away too. I don’ts start mine until early April. When do you start your tomatoes?

    Reply to Kathi Cook's comment

    • Susy on January 26, 2012 at 8:01 am

      I don’t think there’s a way to start just the right amount of tomatoes. Mine will probably be started the first week of March.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. Kenny Point on January 26, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I do have a dedicated seed starting area, it’s a room on the lower level that has windows but not much light. It is never tidy but your post reminded me that I need to get it organized and ready to go. There is a three tiered light cart, a table, and shelving in the room, along with lots of seeds, cultivation equipment, and some plants that are being over wintered indoors. I guess it is about time to start things back up again!

    Reply to Kenny Point's comment

  3. t on January 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Oh my goodness…. totally jealous. I garden like an addict but my seed starting never seems worth it… they get crazy leggy and their stems get thin before I can get them in the ground.
    Any ideas what that is? I water them from beneath and I “think” they get enough light …as they do grow rapidly.
    Loved getting to see how it all begins!

    Reply to t's comment

    • Susy on January 26, 2012 at 10:46 am

      If they’re “leggy” they’re not getting enough light. Keep the lights closer (only an inch or two away). If you keep you lights that close it might be time to replace the bulbs in them, they start to lose strength after a while.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Rhonda on January 26, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I use a shower stall that we never use. That way I don’t have to worry about dripping water on the floor and there’s a door to keep the cat out. I just started using it last year, it was very helpful.

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

    • Susy on January 26, 2012 at 10:47 am

      GREAT idea using an unused shower. Always great to use space that otherwise goes unused. Thankfully our basement is waterproofed so I don’t have to worry about water/dirt everywhere since it cleans up easily. Hopefully your great idea will inspire others to do the same!

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • Andrea Duke on January 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      I love that idea!

      Reply to Andrea Duke's comment

  5. Daedre Craig on January 26, 2012 at 10:20 am

    I’m upgrading my seed starting area this year. The past three years I’ve grown in my basement, but it’s about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house (resulting in very slow growing seedlings, even with a heating mat). So this year, the seed starting area is coming upstairs into the warmth!

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  6. Sofie Dittmann @thegermanfoodie on January 26, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I put a steel shelf in the basement, stuck shop lights on it, and that’s all we’ll have room for unfortunately – the work bench will double as a home for the brooders (geese, ducks) coming in February/March, and until then I’ll have to at least get the trays FILLED. I want a barn w/ a heated wood shop. :0/

    Reply to Sofie Dittmann @thegermanfoodie's comment

  7. tj on January 26, 2012 at 11:02 am

    …Oh I long for a basement like yours Susy. I don’t have a good place to start seeds unfortunately other than a couple of good windows in our guest bedroom. This past few years I’ve just begun buying seedlings much to my dismay.

    …I adore your old table! I just recently picked up a wood table sitting out at the end of someone’s driveway by their trash, I’m gonna give it a new coat of paint and it’s gonna become my gardening table under our barn lean-to. Yeah, I’m resourceful like that. *giggle* ;o)

    …Enjoy your day!

    …Blessings :o)

    Reply to tj's comment

  8. Rick on January 26, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Our seed starting area use to be a board lying on top of a could of wheat buckets in our storage room and a light. Last year we up graded and build a table with some added shelves and lots more lights. We also moved the whole operation to a warmer, lighter part of the basement. It’s so much nicer to not have to fumble to that dark corner in the storage room!!

    Our first seeds went in almost two weeks ago, All lettuce to be put out in the cold frames the first of March.

    Reply to Rick's comment

  9. Mike Lieberman on January 26, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Damned jealous of all that space to start your seeds. I am going to be doing more indoor gardening and am gonna have to get creative with my limited space.

    Reply to Mike Lieberman's comment

  10. Andrea Duke on January 26, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    How well do you like you soil block maker?
    I was looking at them in the Johnny’s catalog and thinking about getting one this year.

    Reply to Andrea Duke's comment

    • Susy on January 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      I like it – there is a learning curve and I’m still trying to get my mix just right. I have found that adding some worm casting seems to make it stick together better. I go the tiny one and so far my mix isn’t quite right for those yet. The medium one is fantastic though. I also love the wooden trays. Everything dries out quicker so much less risk of dampening off or mold issues.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  11. Jennifer Fisk on January 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    My kitchen is where I start my seeds. I use an animal warming mat to encourage germination. Once they break the surface, they go into the south facing windows. I usually have tables pushed into the windows for the sunlight. I would love to have a small green house or be able to rent space in an existing one.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

  12. Domestic Executive on January 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Before I had a greenhouse this year I used to start my seedlings off in the barn positioning under the sky lights. It wasn’t ideal but got me going at least until I could put them into the cold frames I built. In the first year everything was balanced on the dog cages (which weren’t used) and then my father-in-law and I built a potting bench made from recycled wood. It’s a dream to work at and I trundle my seeds down to the greenhouse although I need to get some more robust shelving in there to be able to take the weight of all the seed trays!

    Reply to Domestic Executive's comment

  13. KimH on January 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I have my seed starting area in the basement as well. Many years ago we had an Ames Discount Dept Store go out of business and I bought a half dozen stockroom storage shelves. They have a metal frame & wood shelving that are adjustable. We have them all along one wall and in another area in our basement for storage.

    M’honey fixed up 3 of the shelves for me to start seedlings on. Each shelf area is 2 ft X 3’11” (yeah, not 4 ft lol) and 2 of them have 3 shop-light fixtures with full spectrum lights and & the last one has 2 fixtures to it. The fixtures are 4 ft. long

    Each light can be lowered or raised about 2 feet right now, though we can adjust the shelf if we needed it be be taller since they’re on chains.

    I have a couple seed warming mats I use if needed, usually, mainly for peppers, though I might use them for tomatoes too.. whatever way the wind is blowing. ;)

    These days, I tend to plant my starts in 2, 3, or 4 inch pots since I dont plant hundreds anymore and its just faster & easier in my opinion. I dont have to worry about re-potting them and disturbing the roots, and spending the time it takes to do it. I guess its the lazy way out, but its worked for me. ;)

    Reply to KimH's comment

  14. judy meade on January 28, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Hubby bought a small upright greenhouse and put it in the dining room which we don’t use. Some sprouts but didn’t harden off right. I want to set up either in the basement or the new addition which has windows on the west and south side. I saw a website for winter sowing in gallon milk/water jugs. Sounds interesting and easy – I’m all for easy if it works. I’ll find the website again – I hope – and send it to you or check out pinterest – I branched out from there.

    Reply to judy meade's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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