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Heat mat or heat cables?

17 years ago

I'm trying to decide what is the better course of action for seed starting, primarily garden vegetables and a few fairly common flowers.. I want to use bottom heat but can't decide if I should go with a mat or heat cables.

The mats I'm looking at (such as these: bottom heat mats) say they don't need a thermostat but will keep soil temperatures 10-20 degrees above the ambient temperature. If I'm understanding it right with the additional thermostat (more money, of course) I can get more control over the actual soil temperature.

The cables (such as these: bottom heat cables)don't offer any control, but a "built-in thermostat activates when soil temperature falls below 74°." I'm not precisely sure how they are used though. How much cable do I need to adequately heat two to four seedling flats? Do I need to bury the cables in something like sand or soil then place the seed flats on top or can I lay the flats directly atop the cables?

Like everyone I'm trying to get the most amount of seed starting for the least money. Temperature swings for early spring in North Florida can be pretty wide - below freezing at night to seventies in the daytime - so I'm thinking I'd better have some thermostatic control rather than simply relying on keeping the soil temperature 10-20 degrees above the ambient air temperature, but maybe it's not as important as I think?

I'll be using them inside of my hoophouse which I generally only heat if the outside air temperature is going to drop below forty degrees.

Anyone care to offer an opinion?


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