Seed-Starting Success Will Be Mine! SonnyLight LED Kitchen Garden

***SonnyLight LED Kitchen Garden giveaway below; a $299 value!*** EDIT: Tropaeolum won! Congrats, and enjoy your new SonnyLight LED!

I haven’t had the best of luck with seed-starting in the past. Actually, let me rephrase that. I am a seed-starting loser. Before now, every attempt at seed-starting has resulted in most of my seeds not coming up, seedlings leggy and leaning pitifully toward the window, and soil everywhere from kittens frolicking through my seed trays.

This year is going to be different, people. With the help of my mom’s kitten-free apartment and the SonnyLight LED Kitchen Garden grow lights, I have actually sprouted seeds! They’re robust little things with a lovely fresh green color, and best of all, I’m even feeling confident enough to try my Holy Grail of seeds, Alpine strawberries!

I started my seedling adventure by filling my trays with vermicompost/ worm castings (Worm Power brand) mixed with potting soil to make a seed-starting mix (vermicompost is supposed to be good for preventing damping-off in seedlings, as well as holding moisture). Then, I added some Renee’s Garden seeds (the easy-to-grow cherry tomato mix with orange Sungolds, red Supersweet 100s, and some cute yellow ones), Profuma di Genova basil, and Alpine strawberries:

Then, I went inside, plugged in the fancypants SonnyLight LED Kitchen Garden light that Wicked Bugs author Amy Stewart was kind enough to lend me, and got rolling!

The SonnyLight LED Kitchen Garden is very eco-friendly, because even being on for most of the day, it uses only $11 of electricity per year and runs on a mere 15 watts. Those are good stats for a light bulb, much less a grow light panel that is imitating the sunshine for your plants. It even beats the energy usage for compact fluorescents, and because LED lights last longer and are made of non-toxic materials (no lead!), they’re much, much better for the environment then CFLs.

The SonnyLight doesn’t get hot, so it’s safe to leave on, and it’s completely automated. You just select the conditions for what you’re trying to grow, and the phase of life your plant is in, set the timer, and it comes off and on for you each day with just the right colors and wavelengths of light for the life stage the plants are in.

It fits the standard 10″ by 20″ nursery tray, so I just popped in my seed-warming mat, put my tray of seedlings in, set it, and it’s been doing its thing. And a week later, I have actual live plants!!! I haven’t screwed it up!

I can’t even say how much fun this has been for me. Getting to choose from all the bazillions of seed varieties out there and feel confident that I can grow any ones I want? It feels amazing.

Want to try out the SonnyLight LED Kitchen Garden for yourself?

SonnyLight has generously offered to give an LED Kitchen Garden away to one lucky reader! This is a crazy-cool giveaway. It’s a really exceptional growing setup, with a value of $299.

All you have to do is leave a comment to win, and I’ll select the winner randomly on Tuesday the 19th.

Good luck!

Tropaeolum won! Congrats, girlfriend. We’ve dropped you an email so we can find out where to mail your new SonnyLight LED Kitchen Garden. Have fun!


  1. Sarah S. says

    I’m growing the same basil and tomato plants!! Please enter me in the contest, I’d love to take this into my classroom for the gardening club!


  2. Cuthbert Collingwood says

    Oh gosh and golly! I have just closed the front door on my closest three neighbors — Cheshire Cat, March Hare and the “mad as a” Hatter. All three beg to inform Genevieve that it is “quicksilver”, or more prosaically Mercury, lurking about in those CFLs. I’m afraid both March Hare and the Hatter were both dreadully embarrased as they kept wiggling their toes and staring at the floor. I told them not to worry and to get back to cupcake production. The Cheshire Cat, as per usual, just sat there and grinned. I have most often been right when taking the advice of fictional characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland about modern “techy” stuff.

  3. Barbara Novak says

    I spent some dark winter evenings lusting over one of those grow lights. It would save my sanity next winter. Thanks.

  4. Cindy Storrs says

    WOW! This would be a great to have, as my garden is just getting landscaped and I’ll be planting veggies in my raised beds.

  5. Kaybee says

    I get so excited looking at seed packets but never do well with getting them to grow . . .is this the “miracle” tool that will turn my thumb green??? wishing wishing wishing!

  6. Laura D. says

    Starting seeds for the first time ever this year! Trying to get my container garden off to a good start and would love the SonnyLight giveaway! Thank you for offering the contest.

  7. says

    I have a large seed starting stand that I have been using for about 20 years. I would love to give one like you have to my daughter. Seed starting is not only efficient, but also fun. Her kids would love to start seeds and watch them grow.

  8. says

    Sign me up! I wanted to compare their light to my T5 fixture to compare plant growth. I wish they made a 4 ft. long one, though, to cover the length of my shelf. I think being able to change the light emitted for different growing phases is really fascinating. Maybe this could solve many of my orchid problems.

  9. Sarah Zwissler says

    I have a whole tray of leggy, pathetic looking seedlings right now. I would love a light set up like that! Please enter me in the contest!

  10. Vicky says

    I’ve lusted after a grow light for a while now. I’d love to try one. My previous attempts at seed starting were mixed at best. The seeds sprouted, but since the light was coming from a window and not a grow light, the seedlings were pretty leggy. Only a few survived transplanting into the garden.

    • says

      Hmmm – LED seed starting light?! Being off-grid, energy use is a major concern, and starting seeds outdoors is not an option here (on Hwy 36, at 2500′) this particular spring with more snow predicted for today (again!!). My greenhouse window produces insanely leggy and weak starts, and I know when it dries out enough to till the garden the weather will go directly into hot summer. Sign me up!
      (happily, herbs, onions, garlic and overwintering cauliflower, cabbage, & kale keep me from too many Plant-a-holic withdrawal issues…)

  11. Benjamin Harris says

    Don’t be afraid to start seeds – they want to grow! My wife and I built a small greenhouse a few years ago, and at this moment, it’s full of a few hundred veggie seedlings. Gotta keep close watch on watering and monitor temperatures as best as possible: We put in a ventilation system for the sunny days, of which we have many in northern New Mexico, and we have a small space heater for the nights, which can be quite cool – not much above freezing here in April. (At 7000 feet and a chilly Zone 5, we don’t dare put anything out before June 1, though this year we plan to push the envelope a bit by using row cover over hoops [1/2″ PVC] over raised beds.) We’re using Sunshine brand starting mix, and it seems to be one of the best we’ve tried.

    In the next couple of weeks, I intend to try some of that mix with worm castings (as you say, it’s good stuff!) added in order to test the new soil blockers we’ve added to our inventory of tools. Gotta send off for some Tepary beans, too: I’ve read that they’ll produce beans even if they only receive one rainfall in the growing season. Sounds apocryphal, but who knows? Not a worry in your neck of the woods, but we’ve been dealing with drought conditions here, and a talented plant like that will be highly valued.

    This year, I’m also trying to start some native perennials using peat balls in trays with plastic domes, purchased at Walmart but available many places. The seeds are from Plants of the Southwest in Santa Fe, a really fun place. Gave up the domes after a bit: These plants lean toward the xeric end of the scale, and the domes kept them too wet, I think. So far, I have many little green shoots coming up, with only a couple of disappointments: The Rocky Mountain Bee Plant isn’t doing anything yet, and I’d really like to have them for my bees. Ditto for the Purple Prairie Clover – but I’ll give them more time ’cause it’s still early in the season.

    Btw, thanks for a delightful blog. It’s a great pleasure. Loved the recent book reviews: very helpful!

  12. Karen says

    Wow, that’s a very generous giveaway. Please do enter me for it, and thank you (and SonnyLight) for offering it!

    Good luck with the Alpine strawberries–I’ll be interested to see how that goes.

  13. Jacqueline M. Bolin says

    I would LOVE one of these! I would start my Kitchen Garden, with your YUMMY suggestions of Tri-color Cherry Tomatoes and Alpine Strawberries, as well as some fresh Herbs to use in my cooking. I live in an apartment and do not have the luxury of an outdoor garden, how “crazy-cool” would it be to have a garden in my Kitchen!! I do have a friend with a small garden, who also does not have any luck with seed-starting. If I win this light, and “start” some seeds for her… who knows…? She may even give me my own section!!!

  14. Norix says

    I would love to give it a try. It’s so exciting to see the seeds grow. I am always trying with not much success.

  15. Emily says

    I’m so happy to see you have this giveaway, I’ve started my seeds indoors and I currently have a 60W Ikea lamp with a $5 grow bulb from Amazon that I rotate between my plants! I’ll be moving my plants out to my balcony soon and a “real” seed lamp would really give them the best start and it would be great to continue growing stuff throughout the year indoors once it gets too cold. Thanks for all of the advice you give on this blog it’s really helped me get into gardening!


  16. Andrea says

    Fingers are crossed! This would be perfect for my nearly windowless miniature house where we are desperate to grow more.

    Happy spring gardening everyone!

  17. Wendy says

    Thanks for putting together this give away. I too have had less than impressive results with seed starting, but I keep trying. Maybe LEDs are the key.

  18. Frank says

    I have not had much luck starting my own either. This would be a big help. Thanks for offering this give away.

  19. says

    Oh wow! What a fabulous giveaway! I have pretty good luck with seeds but this would be a whole ‘nother level…please enter me in the giveaway!

  20. Matt Hermenau says

    I remember reading about this. I would love one of these to grow some long season plants like luffas and some succulents during the winter.

  21. Robin says

    I would love a chance to get my seeds started under lights that don’t drain the energy budget. Sign me up, please!

  22. says

    This is an amazing and perfect idea! I use a standard 4′ two-bulb flourescent fixture for a grow light, but I notice the difference in my electric bill anyway. Saving energy and money – what’s to argue with there? I hope I win!

  23. Ali says

    How awesome! I would love to try this – I’ve had a problem with lots of leggy seedlings with my current setup. Thanks for the opportunity!

  24. Heather Mead says

    My seedlings are so sad and leggy right now…the rain’s keeping me from putting them out on the fire escape to get some better light. I would absolutely love this!! Thank you for offering it!

  25. blmarsha says

    Fantastic! Very nice looking grow light. Would love to set one up in the laundry room, away from prying paws.

  26. Heidi says

    This is like the TIVO of grow lights. I’d love to try it! I have to babysit my seedlings and rotate them through the light.

    Also…I would like to put a good word in for seedling heat mats. They make a big difference in germination success.

  27. Nancy Plansy says

    I could really use this lamp to get a jumpstart on the season for my veggies. I want to grow my own vegetables so I can continue to lose weight and be in great shape to garden.

  28. Jenny says

    I’m so glad to hear you are a “seed starting loser.” I am so with you! I think it was Garden Rant who said, “Starting seeds is like raising someone else’s cranky, ungrateful children.” Sigh. My lights died this year, as did the heat mat. Stuck the seeds outside- terrier played in them, armadillo knocked them over. Good thing our farmer’s markets open up this weekend!

  29. Anjali says

    Wow! What a great giveaway!

    (Is the contest open to Canadian entrants?….being further North means less light through our windows and a greater need for grow lights!! )

  30. jayne says

    I would love to have this for my seed starting!! Looks so very cool and love that it saves on electricity too.

  31. Mark F says

    SonyLight, earn some great PR and give one of these to everyone who leaves a comment. This unit looks fabulous. Any way to scale it up for growing more than one flat?

  32. cynthia lovan says

    I live in an ugly part of Brooklyn and don’t have a yard. I would really like to grow some greeny stuff to eat.

  33. Alecia says

    My 40th birthday will be here in June, and I’ve decided my ‘mid-life crisis’ is giong to be trying my hand at gardening – this grow light would be the perfect start to my crisis!!

  34. says

    How cool is THAT? Lettuce and cilantro go to seed in mid-spring in our hot Central Texas climate, but I could grow them year round with one of those!

  35. Shane T. says

    This is very cool. I can’t start seeds near my windows because of the temperature fluctuation. Would love to have this sitting on one end of my desk!

  36. MSHDfred says

    I found a fluorescent desk lamp for $2 in a thrift store a couple of years ago, and I’ve tried clamping on a “full-spectrum” bulb to the gooseneck. Mixed results: After growing three or four inches long, some of the tomatoes have gone almost bushy and look like they’ll survive. Broccoli’s okay, but kale looks sad. Would a REAL FULL-SPECTRUM light help?

    I’d like to hear more about alpine strawberries from seed. I started some last week, a little late for here. I bought a plant, too, just to show the seeds an adult role model. No sign yet.

  37. Jessica says

    I too am a seed-starting loser. I just wait until it’s warm & sunny enough outside to directly sow the seeds. I would love to try again with such an energy responsible grow light!!

  38. Julie P says

    It would be so nice to have one of these…instead of using the ultra-retro retractable ceiling light in the middle of my kitchen. (oh wait, it’s not retro…it’s the original that was installed in 1960, along with the red Frigidaire wall oven and fridge!)
    Regardless, please enter me for the grow lights!

  39. MarciBeth says

    Starting seeds with a stylish light? Nice to have something in the house that doesn’t look like it belongs in a commercial greenhouse.

  40. Chuck Harris says

    I’m pleased to have discovered the Garden Rant and related sites and appreciate all the information. I could also make good use of this fancy grow light.


  41. Cathy says

    I too, have never had luck with starting seeds. Glad you had success with this awesome light, and I hope I’ll win it and be equally amazed!

  42. Jackie says

    I would love to see how an led light did with my seeds. I have a hard time getting everything going and that would be a great help!!!

  43. says

    I’ve been wanting to get into starting seeds indoors. But I haven’t done it specifically because I don’t want leggy window seedlings. Well, that and the cats.

  44. Melanie Tyler says

    This is my second year at trying to grow an organic garden for my daughter. She has Stage IV Breast Cancer that has metastasized to her lungs.Her doctor told me that one thing that would really help her would be to help her eat organic foods… so that has been my mission. My garden last year was a minor success, I had real problems with my seedlings. I believe this light would be a tremendous help for me in my effort to keep my daughter as healthy as possible. I would love to win this! My fingers and toes and strands of hair are crossed!

  45. amber stawicki says

    I would love to win this seed starting SonnyLight! I too am like you and have a hard time starting seeds! Thanks!

  46. tropaeolum says

    OOH! I so want one of these!

    I just started my veggie seeds yesterday–last frost date is Memorial Day weekend–and will start my flowers next week. I don’t have any grow lights, so here’s hoping the south-facing window will be enough.

  47. debbie hamilton says

    I have always wanted to get on…wanted to know if work well and how much for plants you order.

  48. Kris says

    Oh I would love to use one of these. I am new to gardening this year and only part of the things I planted have sprouted. This would be a great way to make sure my garden is able to go to it’s fullest.

  49. Kelly O'Keefe says

    Looks great! I’ve been using the sunny window method and getting only 50% germination rate. I’d love to step up to modernity!

  50. Casey Krohn says

    What a great idea! As a gardener of the heart & soil, I would be lovin’ this fantastic starter. namaste, casey

  51. Carolyn Picard says

    I’ve been a avid gardener for the past six years and I enjoy reading and exchanging information about it! Please Enter me into the contest.. this would SOOOooooOOO give us a head start of our seeds down here, and with the unusally cold winters we are always late getting our seeds in the ground! Thanks again.. I’m enjoying your posts!

  52. says

    This would be fantastic for a donation to my sons school. The school has a science and nature class that does quite a bit of unfortunately indoor growing since budget cuts. I think would be a great science project too for seed vs natural light. Thanks for th offer!

  53. Laura Henriott says

    I have a huge garden every year but like you my seed starting is an aweful experience. Willing them to grow and live. I lose a third of the seeds within the first couple weeks and then another third before I get them in the ground. UGH! SO frustrating, and expensive. I also love fresh Basil year round but it is Way to expensive to buy. The Sonny light would be so great to have! Thanks

  54. says

    I’d LOVE to try this!! I’m so ADD that I go off and forget to keep the seeds damp enough.. pretty much a failure unless I just scatter the seeds outside and let Mother Nature tend to them.

  55. says

    I love to garden, lot a loser, but starting seeds and gardening with CP has its challanges so would love to add this to my 3 season gardening activity.

  56. says

    I’m a seed-starting loser, too ! This would be so wonderful to have … and I could even use my first batch of vermicompost for starter. Ah ! I’m having dreams of not killing those tender little plants – maybe I CAN be a seed-starting success !

  57. Lynne Wiley says

    Never saw one of these before. What a wonderful system! Could seriously be a great help to getting the garden started in a very economical way.

  58. Adetoun Sanders says

    I really really really would love to win this!!!! It would make my day!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am keeping my fingers crossed. Thaks!!

  59. mandy carrasco says

    what a generous company! i, too, feel your kitten destruction pain… my little seedkings also had to suffer the rath of a forgetful house-sitter. i stopped doing laundry for nearly a month during the seed planting stage- the top of the washer/dryer makes a perfect work surface, there’s a door to keep out fuzzbabies and rugrats (assuming husbands don’t forget to close it) and the broom’s in there…i’m a little clumsy when it comes to scooping out seed starter.

  60. Bev Gebbia says

    I am pleased to say I don’t have trouble starting seeds. I start all of my seeds for my garden but the Sonny light would probably make it easier and I would love to have the Sonny light for fresh herbs in my kitchen for cooking/canning of all of the wonderful produce from my garden. I would be in heaven if I won the Sonny light. PLEASE PICK ME!

  61. says

    I’ve successfully grown Alpine Strawberries from seed. I had read somewhere that they appreciated a cold treatment, so after sowing them in damp seed mix in several 6-packs, I stuck them into a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for 6 weeks. When I warmed them up again, they all germinated within the week.

    And yes, I’d love to win an LED light!!

  62. Fredrica says

    Oh, I’ve been wanting a grow light. I’ve got my seeds started, but no sunny window & the wind blows too hard not to blow my little babies away when I place them outside. This would be wonderful! Thank you for the chance.

  63. Joyce says

    I always ask myself “how hard can it be to start a seed?” Mine sprout and then become Jack’s beanstalk before the second set of leaves set in. After a long hiatis I’m trying again — and I have beanstalks! I would love to have this light!

  64. says

    SWEEET! I like Arcata. The clinic in town SAVED my life during a Kidney infection on my road trip {I’m from Washington, thought it was a backache} I got to spend some time on my friend Rose’s couch and enjoy Arcata from her small home. Good time:) Oh, and can’t forget the Finnish Hot Tub night on the Harvest moon!!! :) LOVE!

    Oh yeah, the contest, it would be really cool to have this, I live in an apartment right now and need a small garden :) Cheers to everyone!!

  65. Maude3000 says

    That light is so sleek looking. I would put it in the living room instead of hiding it down the basement. I cannot make it through another winter in MN without something green!

  66. Debbie says

    Wow! A lot of people want to win this, and I can see why. It looks great, and that was a very nice video, even though we can only see Gen in profile. Count me in. Somebody has to win, and I think seed starting is one of the most exciting thins in life. What does that say about my life?

  67. Heather says

    That’s a pretty cool device! It would save so much space over my typical setup of utility shelves and shop lights.

  68. Brian Cooper says

    I’d love to be able to upgrade to an energy efficient LED system. The color spectrum changes is a great idea.

  69. Debbie Howard says

    I am a newbie to seedlings. I started seeds in the house last year in front of the window. I also ended up with no shows, leggings and the cat in my seeds. I was so frustrated. I didn’t want to spend alot of money on a grow light so I decided not to do indoor seeds again.

    Then this spring I decided to try one more time but I hooked up a small shop light I already had to see if it would work. I have been moving my seeds trays all over the house where the sun was most exposed and on cloudy days turning on the shop light. I don’t know if it will work since it doesn’t seem to put out much light.

    I would love to win this as I have already decided if my seedlings didn’t work this year I just wouldn’t bother with it anymore.

  70. Dan Broockmann says

    Nifty device. Compensating for the wavelengths through the life-cycle of the plant. I’m interested in how it does this for sure.

  71. says

    I had a little bit of success with fluorescents in my basement (away from dangerous kitty paws), but it’s no substitute for that glowing orb in the sky. I’m curious about the LED lights, being a fan of the high-cost but low-energy consumption technology.

  72. Denise says

    I have the worst luck with gardening. Between the hot desert and the wind I don’t have much of a chance. I am trying to grow a big garden and try my hand at canning. With 14 people in the house, I think it would be very economical. But I need to get off to a good start.

  73. Sheila says

    This is a fantastic contest! I would be one happy girl if I won but will be so happy for someone else if I don’t. :)

  74. Shelene Wilhelm says

    I would LOVE to have one of these. Our family of 8 is excited to garden as a family and preserve what we grow as well. This would be a welcome addition to our home and our homeschooling projects. :)
    Cheyenne, WY

  75. Daryl says

    $11/ year? I probably spend that much every month with the shop lights, and I thought they were cheap compared to the grow lights. Sounds like a great gadget.

  76. Richard D. Simmons says

    This has got to be a better way! Why, because all of my windows are tinted and let in very little benificial sunlight. Right Spectrum, Right Set-up, Right Now, Right On SonnyLight!

  77. yolana says

    I must admit that I’m seriously wanting that light now. I love starting seeds but I’m limited due to having only a few spaces in the house with enough light to do it without the seedlings getting all leggy.

  78. Melissa says

    I would love to try one of these. I’ve been having the leggy and falling over problem myself. :( I definitely feel like a cool light like this might solve the problem.

  79. william says

    I’m seriously in need of lights for my seeds right now. Got a cuple fluorescent shop lights setup but it’s not doing the job.

  80. Karen King says

    My baby plants are cold outside in the greenhouse. Would love to try this out and get a jump start on the seeds.

  81. says

    Well, as entry #270, it doesn’t seem likely I’ll win, but I just started growing from seed this year witha heat mat, some 100 plants, with no grow light. This’d be sweet–time to expand my 2,000 foot garden.

  82. Catherine says

    Would love to have this in my room. You should see the get-up I have set up now! I gave up the corporate world to do what I love – organic farming. It’s been wonderful but a struggle financially, especially for specialty luxuries like this.
    Happy gardening to all!

  83. Siobhan says

    This is just what I need for my condo herb/veggie garden. My seedling lean pathetically too, and now I know why!

  84. shelley says

    Winning this would mean so, so much to the community garden/urban farm,, I volunteer with!

  85. Sherri says

    I would love to try peppers in my kitchen in the winter…….add my name to the draw please! Awesome site!

  86. says

    I would LOVE to win this! Because I am having some major issues with my seeds that are not starting really at all…and then the ones that do just fall over and die after becoming too leggy. So if I win…yay me! And if I don’t could someone send some tips my way…my seeds need help!

  87. Stephanie Brown says

    Wow! Those sound fantastic! Last year I tried tomatoes and peppers and they were pitiful things. This year I’ve had better luck with just a plain CFL on 18 hrs. a day. LED’s would be great though! I’d love to use less energy with something that lasts longer.

  88. Terry says

    Oh, please let me be the winner! I am off-grid and a SonnyLight Kitchen Garden would make it guilt-free to start some seedlings! Plus, my two poor bedraggled orchids would love it in the winter!

  89. Melynn says

    This would be a wonderful item to have…, I would love to have this. I have so much trouble with starting plants with seeds. This would give me a early start on my herb garden each year.

  90. lois says

    I would love to have one of these! My indoor plants would be so happy in the winter! Thanks for offering such a great givaway!

  91. Roberta says

    Yet another great giveaway! Would love to do experiments with different seeds &
    cuttings! You could grow “all” kinds of interesting things incognito…. 😉
    Gardening is fun!

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