It's time to read and vote for your favorite article in the 2013 Write-Off Contest! The four finalist's articles are featured in the May 13 newsletter and can be found through this link. Hurry! Voting ends May 18.
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You'll find both 20x20" mats (sized to fit 2 flats) and controllers priced at around $50... I've seen them about the same locally but have also seen them priced even higher. Parks often has good deals on them if you purchase mat + controller or multiple mats.
I bought a heat mat, plug tray with plugs, and watering tray and dome all in one kit for around $35.00 at Lowe's - its perfect and hold about 72 seedlings.
Critter, you haven't mentioned too much about humidity (unless I missed it) but this dome provides enough humidity and with the heat, it is a perfect environment for the seed and seedlings.
I also wanted to add that when I worked in a greenhouse we always had the fans going - a breeze stimulates root production so the plant becomes more stable - kind of a precautionary thing they do on their own! You don't want them wind blown, but just a gentle movement.
You're right about humidity & fans being helpful. I'm not saying I didn't miss any good tips, as I'm sure I did, but you'll find more details like that in other articles in this series. The "Seed Starting 101: Sowing Seeds" article gets into humidity and domes. Fans were discussed in the Damping Off article, but I didn't get into root/stem strengthening. It was hard keeping the articles under 1000 words -- that's the limit Dave first suggested, and I've been pretty much following it since I figure it's a good "over coffee" length... much longer than that and I know people's eyes would glaze over, LOL.
But the fact that I can't include every possible detail is another reason I love the interactive nature of publishing here... people add all manner of helpful comments, questions, and tips in the threads following the articles! Thanks!
I hope you do... it's such fun! And remember, you don't need a lot of fancy equipment... even a heat source is optional for most seeds... just figure on longer germination times for things like peppers -- sow them sooner and sow a few extra seeds. :-)