User avatar
madonnaswimmer
Senior Member
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:41 am
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Alternatives to heating pad

I'm about to start my seeds but don't want to spend $20 per seed flat for a heating pad, or even $12 for a medical heating pad.

I tried placing an incandescent bulb under the table where the plants are, but that doesn't seem to penetrate my table well.

Any other alternatives? Anything involving what I might have around the house?

treehopper
Senior Member
Posts: 103
Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:43 pm
Location: Southeast MI

do you have a hot water tank in your house?...should be some "spare" heat around there?
I started a compost pile, because I gardened. Now I find myself gardening, so I have someplace for my compost!!

User avatar
madonnaswimmer
Senior Member
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:41 am
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Unfortunately we keep our house so cold (65) that the heat from the water tank doesn't go far. :(

The plants are even in the same room as the boiler, and they are still cold.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Not much that gives enough heat. Put your trays on a wire cooling rack and then put the incandescent lights (some people use Christmas lights) right under the trays (on top of the table/counter)

But my medical heating pads have been working for me for well over a decade now. If you pro-rate the expense, it's maybe $1 a year. And my house is at 58 - 60 most of the time (at night and all day while we are at work). The plants do fine on their mats.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27804
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

What kind of seeds? Tomatoes and peppers?

Have you tried taking temp readings around the house? Top of a shelf in a sunny upstairs room near the ceiling for example, would be warmer than basement. People always mention back of top of the refrigerator, though modern ones don't release as much heat.

The cabinet above the cook stove might be warmer, though not all the time.

What kind of heating system do you have? Most vents and radiators are situated in front of the window, and if it's a sunny window, covered seed trays in a sunny spot on top of the heat outlet *may* suffice. Some people use clear plastic shoe boxes or storage tubs. (I tend to think clear/translucent but black one in the sun may hold in heat for seeds that don't need light to germinate)

I always mention that the head editor of Organic Gardening mag wrote that he used a bare metal ironing board with a 100W incandescent bulb under it in an issue long ago.

Also, I'm not in favor of this method because I don't always have the time to sow them at the right time (AS SOON AS ROOT TIP SHOWS), but moistened paper towel in zip bag does work to germinate the seeds, at which point you can sow them. But this isn't sufficient for peppers for which warm soil temp really makes a difference.

User avatar
IndyGerdener
Green Thumb
Posts: 392
Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2012 4:32 pm
Location: Greenwood, Indiana

I use a heater under my shelves... (Metal shelves) Maybe this will give you some ideas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EJfSdzhaS8

User avatar
madonnaswimmer
Senior Member
Posts: 146
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:41 am
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The seeds I have planted:
-tomatoes
-peppers
-summer savory
-cilantro

Problem is, I have 4 cats who like to eat and/or generally mess with my plants. All of my houseplants are on one crowded shelf in the cornered-off guest bedroom, except my rosemary (who cares if they eat it, it needs a good trim and it's not bad for them), my bonsai trees (which for some reason, they leave alone), and my lucky bamboo (which has been eaten and barfed too many times to count, and now we're trying rubbing "bitter apple" spray on the leaves). Point is: we are very limited to where we can keep the plants.

Also, I spent about $50 and countless hours running back/forth to home depot, constructing a PVC-pipe structure with fluorescent lights, set on a timer, that fits perfectly on a spare table we had, so I wasn't about to give that up!
Image



Well, last night we set off in search of some back heating pads. Couldn't find A SINGLE ONE at Walgreens that didn't have an auto-shutoff. So, that was out.

Went to Menards and found their seed heating mats were about $25 each. I have 2 trays, and might have a third, so that would be an extra $50 (or even $75), so that was out.

Tried the incandescent bulb thing again, this time with some new shop light clamp fixtures from Menard's, that had metal reflectors on them ($7 each).

HOLY CRAP, THE HEAT!

My temps were measuring above 100 on the tabletop. YIKES! Adjusted the heights of the bulbs to get the right temps, and we are all set to go now.

Thanks for all of your suggestions!

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27804
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

The set up looks very nice. Good job! :D

I'm glad I asked what kind of seeds -- cilantro and summer savory won't need the heating. They'll germinate fine around 60-65°F. Cilantro will even do 50° I think.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

And I have 16 running feet of lighted area and use two heat pads. I start most things on them and then move them off once germinated (and hopefully with true leaves) and then use the space for something else. You could do with one.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Return to “Seed Starting Forum”