Creating a space for starting plants on a shelf is a good way to get a head start on spring planting and minimize the costs of buying young plants from a nursery. Turning a shelf in a bookshelf or bookcase into a seed-starting shelf is not difficult. With a little work, you can repurpose an existing space in your home to start plants for eventual transplantation either outside or in pots.
Select a shelf for your plant-starting shelf. A lower shelf on a mid-height bookcase may help keep the growing area out of sight.
Install a 2-foot-long fluorescent fixture by screwing it to the shelf above the shelf where you will place your pots. A single-tube fluorescent fixture will work, but two tubes will provide more light and faster growth.
Place your sprouting pots on the shelf under the lights. If your seeds haven't yet sprouted, do not turn on the light until you see the first two leaves of the seedlings.
Attach black plastic to the front of the shelf during seed germination using thumb tacks. Seeds germinate better in the dark and too much light can harm young seedlings. By limiting ambient light, you can control the amount of light your seedlings receive.
Plug your light in to a timer and give the seedlings two or three hours of light once they have two leaves. Increase the amount of light by 90 minutes per day until the fluorescent light is on for 12 to 15 hours a day. Remove the black plastic when your seedlings are getting eight hours of light.
Move the seedlings to natural light when they are within 2 inches of the fluorescent fixture.