Tuesday 17 April 2007

Removable Seedling Shelf

Casually put some very early seed trays on the windowsill. Fill the remaining space with the first tomatoes, and shove all your lovely ornaments out of the way to fit everything else in. Then knock everything over every five minutes, as the spring gets underway in ernest and there’s not a horizontal space left in the house that doesn’t have some tender seedlings growing on it. Sound familiar?

I have accidentally cooked seedlings that I’d left on the top of the grill, I have carried a six-foot ladder around my flat to water things growing on top of the wardrobes, I have been unable to reach my windows for months at a time because of the precarious arrangements of vegetable racks I’ve used to layer seed trays in front of my windows. I’ve had enough now.

This year I’ve been trying to make better use of the vertical space in my high-celinged flat, and with spring just around the corner I want to double the amount of windowsill space I can grow things on this year. I have a cunning plan.

This is what my living room windows look like

And this is my bedroom window

My plan is to construct a shelf half way up each window where the panes are split. I’m hoping that this won’t block out too much of the natural light coming into the rooms, but for my next trick I’m going to make the shelves completely removable, so that I’m not stuck with a huge window obstruction all year round.

To make the supports as unobtrusive as possible I’m putting in small batons on either side of the frames. Here is me measuring one against the inside of the window frame

I’ll be needing four, two for each set of windows, and a support shelf for the middle of the wider living room window. I sawed the wood for these to the right length in the middle of my living room, on a science lab stool I found behind Leeds University and took home on the bus, topped with an old chopping board that I rescued from a bonfire. Just in case you are having trouble visualising this:

It works a treat.

The next thing to do is to help the fittings (which will not be removable) to blend in, by painting them to match the windows. I used gloss spray paint, but would have used normal gloss paint if I’d had any. I reckon they will get fairly grubby with bits of soil etc spilling on them all the time, so I want to be able to wipe them clean when I take the shelves down.

A couple of thin layers of spray paint is the way to go, it just drips if you try to put too much on at once and thin layers are also less likely to chip off later.

To fix them to the frame I used 40mm screws straight into the wooden window frame. Then I cut the shelves to length on my homemade saw bench and put them in position resting on the batons. This bit actually took some time because after I’d found woodworm in the reclaimed floorboards I was going to use, neither local skips nor Homebase could provide me with suitable wood. Eventually a neighbour gave me some wood left over from her own shelves, thus saving the whole project just in time. Here is the finished product with all my little seedlings waiting for the sun to shine:

And I can of course use the time they take to grow to hoover all the soil and sawdust out of the carpet…


Ralph Mills said...

Nice windows! Good idea! I'm going to do something similar for my succulents and cacti, which have to live indoors during the winter, except I'm going to make a frame that fits inside the window recess so that I can remove it during the summer and don't have to make holes (the bricks and mortar of this house are super soft). Of course, if I moved to Mexico (see below), then my plants could live outside all year! Ho hum...

Anonymous said...


My two year old son's room is the best room in the house for starting seeds but I need something our of his reach. This is a great idea!

Alice said...

Ah yes, they'd be perfect for keeping plants out of reach - at least until he gets big enough to think about climbing onto the windowsill!