I found a 17 watt 9x19.5 mat for $25.00 @ Hydro Farm.
Anyone know of a better product or price?
Had all of mine for several years so haven't checked prices in some time but it sounds like a low price to me. Main concern is the temp it is set to - some are maxed out at 70 degrees and some require an additional probe and thermostat to stabilize temps.
I know that it comes up for discussion each year over on the Growing from Seed forum so you might want to check out the discussions there.
I bought a couple of 2' x 4' sheets of particle board. A few strands of decorative rope lights woven back and forth on the boards and held down with the coax cable clamps.
I dont know what the temp was but the rope lights were slightly warm to the touch and my tomatoes came up quick.
We just use a "human" heating pad on low when we need it for seed starting. Usually we just load the top of our refrig. with covered flats to start our toms. We had a plant heating mat once and it did not work after a couple of years. We have used the human one for 10 years for us and them. We always put a towel between the pad and the flat. Make sure you maintain the humidity whatever way you use. A pillow bag (that has a zipper end) is great for that.
LOL when you said '"human" heating pad' in quotes, I was picturing you carrying around the seeds in a plastic baggy under your shirt or something, and I'm thinking "WHAT the heck???"
Then I figured out you meant a heating pad you bought at the drugstore. OOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHH, OK!
Carla in Sac
I remember last year someone bought a "human" heating pad for starting their seeds and then found it included a dandy safety feature- an automatic shut-off. Just the thing you want to kick in on a chilly night. Caveat emptor- Latin for "Read the box".
I got a couple of heating pads from a local agriculture supply store a few years back. I think they were something like 19.99 each and fit under a typical multi-cell seed starting tray like those 72-cell dealies.
Anyway, now I only use them for pepper starts. For tomato starts, I just cover the tray with plastic wrap and put them in a fairly warm place ... 70 - 80 degrees ... wherever I can find such a place. On top of the fridge. Near the furnace. In a sunny window. Whatever. Sometimes they temps get down below 70*F. That just retards the process a bit. But I never had any problem getting tomato seeds up within a week except if the seeds were a bit unviable to begin with. Heating pads seem to be an expensive extravagance, IMO.
I continued Internet shopping and found a better deal at
A complete Hydrofarm Germination Station including a 2 1/2 inch humidity cover, heat mat, tray and cube planter for
I have read that STRONG plants avoid early blight and outpreform.
I did it the cheap way last year with success, but my plants did not look as health as the store bought nursery raised type.
I want to do better.
This year I will use a heat pad, humidity cover and mylar covered grow box with the proper fluorescent lighting.
I will use Texas Tomato Cages and wheat straw mulch.
My cost per pound for tomatoes will be on the high side BUT
my enjoyment will be priceless.
John, while I'm not saying none ever do, I've never seen a nursery use heat mats to germinate tomato seed.
I think the appearance of nursery raised tomato transplants has a lot more to do with factors other than heat mats.
In fact, stocky young tomato transplants usually result from a period of cold treatment at a particular stage of early development, while leggy plants can be the result of too much warmth early on. I like to pot my seedlings up when they are just at the first true leaf stage and move them out onto a cool garage floor like at 55 - 65*F for three weeks or so.
Of course fertilization techniques, potting up techniques, sufficient light, and physical stimulation of the meristems contribute to the strength and appearance of nursery transplants as well. All these things can be done at home and without heat mats.
IOW, it ain't all about heat mats.
Thanks for the information.
Hoosier makes great points. And if used, the heat mats and the humidity covers are just for the seed germination phase. Once sprouted, both need to be removed.
Yes Hoosier does make good points.
I agree the heat mat and humidity cover is JUST for germination.
After starting seed, I get anxious questioning germination and if a heat mat and humidity cover will speed the process, I feel it is money well spent.
John, like I said earlier, I have two heat pads I bought maybe 4 years ago. They each fit two trays of those 72 or 36 (depending on the individual cell size) cell units.
I guess I would still use them to start tomato seeds, but nowadays I start so many tomato seeds that I just use the heat pads to start pepper seeds which seem to need more heat to germinate than tomato seeds do.
In the meanwhile, I found I can start tomato seeds at room temps ranging from 68 - 75*F with no problem. So, I guess I'm just too cheap to pay 20 bucks a pop for all the heating pads I would need for my current hobby.
Just a tip ... I have double-stacked seed starting trays atop a single heat pad before. What I did was cover the trays with plastic wrap and rotate them top to bottom every 12 hours or so, and as soon as I saw germination, I put the clear domed lids on and moved the trays to the large plate glass, east facing windows in my office.
I'm lucky in that my office windows have as a ledge the HVAC circulating conduits with vents. This provides steady temps and air circulation to help prevent damping off.
I use 4-foot, dual tube florescent fixtures for auxiliary lighting and them pot up the sprouts like I said, and move them to the garage for a cold treatment.
Thanks for the tips and information.
You may be parsimonious, not cheap. When I refer to myself as parsimonious most look at me in a funny way as they have no idea what it means LOL.
I limit the amount of plants to the number I can finish in one row under one four foot shop light in half gallon milk cartons (10).
I start quite a few extras as back-ups.
I plan to end up with six varieties; one plant each.
No, I'm not frugal to the point of being stingy ... I just try to do certain things as cheaply as possible so I can splurge on other stuff.
While I agree you don't need heat mats to germinate tomatoes, it does make it faster and I think it helps if you may have questionable seed (old). It is almost impossible to get good germination of peppers without a heat mat. So if I have one I am going to use it. As soon as I have germination I remove the plants from the heat anyway. The 60 to 65 cellar and lights are plenty once they have germinated.
PS I was looking for a 2nd heat mat so this thread was right on the money.
Now that this topic has about been wore out and most of you seem to think that a heat pad is not needed. I will get in my 2 cents. One of the 19 inch commercial one works great for me. The reason is I grow several starter trays each year and my best window light is in a cold, drafty corner of an old drafty house. The heat pad is a great help in speeding things up, I leave in under the plants until they are several inches tall. Weather here in spring can some time be real nasty and cold-windy. Course I have to be more carefull in hardening them off. For my conditions I find the heat pad a great help.
I have a 4x6 foot work bench butted up to a Wall mounted hot water radiator. I use 2x2'x1" thick styrofoam used for house insulation to set my 24/36 cell jiffy 7 trays with domes on. This way I don't have to worry about my seedlings getting cold feet and the ambient air temp is high enough for good germination. I use a 5 tube florescent fixture for lighting and when the seedlings get their first true leaves I cut off the heater and start the cold treatment. Just picked up 6ea 100watt 6500K compact florescent lights off of ebay that I'm going to use in a new light fixture I'm building for next year. Ami
Check ebay. I found brand new ones for about half price last year.
I use a heated mattress pad (twin size) that says Westpoint on the control. I added a link below and readers will think why spend $35. on this? ans. Because we already had it on a twin bed in our spare bedroom. If I was to get this dirty I'd be in deep manure - so I drape it over a table and COVER with an old sheet, afgan etc. The control shuts off after 10 hours but this is not a problem 4 me as when I'm planting I'm there anyway. I started by getting frustrated with pepper germination but now use it for every planting.