tips + how-tos

diy seed starting rack – an ikea hack

I have for many years dreamed of having an awesome seed starting rack only to be scared away by huge price tags and complicated setups. As usual, I set out to figure out a way to do it myself. Building this DIY seed starting rack has possibly been the easiest Ikea hack I have taken on and the most beneficial to our little homestead. Having happy healthy seedlings are essential to a quality garden. This has definitely been a weak point around these parts…until now.

After pricing out what seemed like a million different lights and shelving units, I realized that 4′ florescent shop lights seemed to be the most economical way to go. Working with a 4’ long rack size, I searched for something that wouldn’t take up a ton of room. Ikea always seems to come through, which is where I found the MULIG shelving unit and knew that it would be perfect. With the addition of some simple shop lights, I put together this easy and cheap Ikea hack seed starting rack. I was able to put this seed rack together for about $175, which is far cheaper than the $500+ models I have been drooling over for years.



Ikea MULIG shelving unit – Large size (47 ¼” x 13 3/8” x 63 ¾”)
Four or Eight – 4′ long T8 florescent hanging shop lights
T8 florescent bulbs – daylight & soft white (2 bulbs for each shop light)
Wire – (lots of options for this – I used old bonsai training wire)
Plastic cable ties
Extension cord

Follow the guide to construct your Ikea rack. This is a super easy and straight forward rack to put together. Because I don’t plan on having tons of weight on this rack, I didn’t bother attaching it to the wall (as they recommend). It’s always an option for later.

Ikea-MULIG-shelving-unit-seed-starting-rackAttach a small section of wire to the shelves at each end to hang your lights from. Loop the wire through two holes and twist the end tight to secure it.


Attach one s-hook to the wire. Clamp one end tight around the wire, so you don’t accidentally knock off the light later on. Leave the bottom side of the s-hook attached to the wire open to be able to adjust the level of your lights as your seedlings grow. Repeat this on each side.


Now, attach the chain to shop lights with another s-hook. Clamp this s-hook tight on both ends. Repeat on each end of the light fixture.

clamped s-hook on seed starting rack

Install the light bulbs into the light fixture. (I used one daylight and one soft white bulb in each fixture to give a broader spectrum of light for seedlings. This helps give a better balance of light for the plants.) Now, carefully hang the lights by hooking the chain onto the s-hooks attached to the shelving unit.


Pull the power cords above the hanging light fixture and loop it over the corner of the shelf above. Attach the cords to the shelve unit post with plastic cable ties. Be sure to leave enough slack to be able to lower and raise the shop lights. That keeps the cords out of sight out of mind, but most importantly out of any potential moisture around the seedlings.


Plug the shop light power cords into an extension cord and the extension cord into the timer. Now all that is left is to plant seed trays and get those gardens started.


In just a few weeks, these guys will be garden ready just in time for their planting dates. With strong seedlings coming right along, it’s time to prep some garden beds. We can’t wait to see our gardens full of delicious veggies and beautiful flowers all thanks to this DIY seed starting rack.


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    December Garden Chores - This Natural Dream
    December 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    […] cold frame. To give our gardens a little jump start, we are starting an assortment of greens on our DIY seed starting rack. The seedlings can be transplanted during the late winter into cold frames. The greens will need […]

  • Reply
    January 9, 2016 at 9:25 am

    I am using your guide this year! I have the shelving unit setup and I just got the lights last night. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      this natural dream
      January 16, 2016 at 11:35 pm

      Thanks Erika! It has made a huge difference for us. Good luck and happy planting!

  • Reply
    January 20, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Hi, I am about to put together the DIY grow light setup. What kind of timer do I need? Can you get the fixtures and bulbs at Home Depot?
    Separate question – can I purchase your Bee Friendly poster? I teach head Start kids and adults and that would be perfect.

    • Reply
      this natural dream
      January 20, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      Hi Patty,
      I use a basic 24-hour plug-in timer available at most hardware stores. Yes, you should be able to find the fixtures and bulbs at Home Depot. As for the bee poster, I would be happy to get you a copy. I’ll shoot you an email with details.

  • Reply
    Jacob Minnick
    March 9, 2016 at 12:53 pm


    I bought the light fixtures (T8) and bulbs (T5) that you recommended but they don’t match up. What am I doing wrong?

    • Reply
      this natural dream
      March 13, 2016 at 1:04 pm


      I apologize for the confusion. That was a bad typo on my part. The T8 light fixtures need T8 bulbs. I have corrected the post. Good luck with your seed starting!


  • Reply
    Cynthia Sterling
    March 23, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Such a nice idea! My sister will definitely fall in love with your seed starting system, so I’m definitely showing her your post. She’s just beginning with the seed starting and she’ll have enough time to make this rack at home. Thank you for sharing this idea! Happy gardening!

    • Reply
      this natural dream
      March 27, 2016 at 10:39 pm

      Thanks Cynthia! I hope your sister loves it as much as we do.


  • Reply
    October 7, 2017 at 11:48 am

    How far apart did you space your shelves?

  • Reply
    Frank Murdough
    February 21, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Very interesting to see this setup. I just did one very similar to this about a month ago and I love it.

  • Leave a Reply