When starting plants form seed, they need three main things: food, water, and heat. The food and the water aspects of starting seeds are pretty easy to take care of. We have a very nice potting mix that we use to start our seeds, and we have a strict watering schedule. The heat is a little more complicated. The room that we use to start seeds in is nice and warm during the day and gets good light, but it really cools off at night, and most plants want to have a consistent soil temperature between 65-80 degrees F for optimal germination and growth.
You can purchase heat mats form seed companies, but these are really expensive, so that wasn’t an option for us. Then we discovered a great idea while researching online; using rope lights, like the ones you see around Christmas time, to make your own heat mat. Incandescent lights give off a little heat, just enough to warm soil through. We used some scrap OSB board and some scrap 1x2 lumber to make a frame through which we could snake two 18 foot sections of rope lighting. We pinned it down in some places, but it mostly stayed put on it’s own. We made two of these, each large enough to hold five seeding trays, each with space for . This will give us ample space to start all our vegetable and flower plants.
In combination with our hanging fluorescent lights, these DIY heat mats will really help us get a jump start on the season and help us growing some very healthy seedlings.