Inexpensive Heat Mat for Seedlings

By ERIN TURNER

Soil temperature is critical for the sprouting of any seeds in your garden.  If it is too cold, your seeds will sit there dormant and eventually rot, forcing you to either replant new seeds or head to the local nursery and purchase plants.  By not paying attention to soil temperatures, you can waste a lot of money unnecessarily.

In Montana, waiting for the soil temperature to rise is a lesson in patience, though. So, many people like to start their seeds indoors or in small greenhouses or cold frames.  This gives the seeds a chance to grow into strong starts which will be ready to plant directly into your garden once the chance of frost is gone.

Seedling heat mats have become popular over the last number of years.  These are mats on which you set your pots with seeds and they provide a small amount of heat to keep the soil temperature warm.   For gardeners everywhere this was a great invention as it gives the seedlings a quicker chance at success.   The only drawback is the cost.  An average size mat (36” x 19”) ranges from $20-$60.  If you just need one for a few pots, it may be worth a $20 (roughly) investment.  But I seed all of our plants for our Market Garden, so I’d be looking at an investment of a couple hundred dollars.  Hmmm, doesn’t sound appealing to me despite the benefit.

After some research and a couple years of trials, I love the option I discovered.  Using rope lighting, I am able to get the same effect as the heat mats but for significantly less money!  A few years ago I had read about using rope lighting and decided to try it out.  For the third year now, I’ve been using this technique exclusively for all my seeds with lots of success.  It is easy and frugal!

Heat Mat lighting

I purchased my rope lighting at Lowe’s for $8.98 for a 6 ft length.   These ropes can be connected so I have about 2 ropes attached.  For safety reasons, I lay the rope on top of metal trays (instead of the wood countertop).  I simply weave it all over my greenhouse table top.  Then I place my flats of seeded 6-packs on top of the rope lighting.  Viola!  The ropes provide just the right amount of heat to keep the soil nice and warm for those little seeds and sooner rather than later I see little green sprouts pushing up and out from the dirt!

Inexpensive Heat Mat for seedlings

Since this rope lighting is rated for outdoor use, it can handle the watering of the plants without any fear of shorting out.   When the seedlings are ready to move on to greener pastures, I simply unplug the lights, wipe them down so they are clean and roll them up for next spring.

Inexpensive Heat mat lighting for seeds

For $18, I get 12 feet of warm rope lighting which is plenty enough for multiple flats of seedlings.   Now, that’s an investment which appeals to me.  But beyond just the savings, I’m always so happy with the result…germinated seeds which grow into healthy, happy plants which ultimately feed my family and our customers!

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 Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, sticking to a budget, and living sustainably in her blog archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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