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heat mat + fluorescent lights = happy seedlings!

March 28, 2010

After researching stuff for a bit, I decided there was no point in paying over $100 for a “plant grow-light” setup when I could just go to the local hardware store and buy all the components myself for under $50. Voila:

The shop-light, fluorescent tubes, heat mat and timer for the lights are a relatively inexpensive and essential solution for something that’s plagued me every year I’ve tried to start seeds indoors. The darn things never get enough light or warmth to grow vigorously enough. Last year the only exceptions to this were marigolds and hot peppers (!), which grew like gangbusters once they were in the ground but took their sweet time getting big enough to transplant.

This opens up a wide world of plants! I’m now able to start virtually anything indoors. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, or like I have here, lettuce, Asian greens and two kinds of basil. Later this week I’m hoping to start another variety of lettuce.

In the two days since I set up the lights and heat mat, the difference in the little seedlings is amazing. I started them outdoors in this big plastic container when it was warm out last week, but when temperatures got back to March norms (50s daytime highs into the 30s at night) I figured they’d perish unless I did something. Of course, I got all this stuff after the fact–but since yesterday, everything’s gotten the nub of their first true leaves, and the basil has sprouted. The stems, while still kind of leggy-looking, have gotten much stronger, and the few unsprouted seeds germinated and are poking through.

Exciting times. Maybe I can actually successfully grow cabbage and broccoli this fall!

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