I have used Hydrofarm seedling heat mats, thermostats, and lighting systems for years now and can attest to overwhelming success these have afforded me in getting my garden plants started in late winter.This particular light is well-made and has four replaceable bulbs. The packaging is outstanding and all arrived well, intact, and undamaged when received. I did break one of the bulbs when taking my setup down after springtime planting and I haven’t had much success finding “grow light” replacement bulbs at my local hardware store, but finding a 24″ T5 that will fit in a pinch shouldn’t be too hard. Speciality garden shops may have the 6500K bulbs, or you can pick these up non-Prime on Amazon from several sellers.Heat mats and proper lighting are the key to consistent and prolific germination of seeds started in late winter to be ready for springtime planting.
Here’s the setup I’ve used for the past few years:
-Park Seed Park’s Double Bio Dome with 80 Jumbo Cells. I actually use 2-18 Jumbo Cell for a total of 36 plants. There are several sizes of the Bio-Dome system. I have the DOUBLE Bio-Dome which allows for two seed starting cells (Purchased from Park Seed)
-Hydrofarm MT10008 20-by-20-Inch Seedling Heat Mat (Purchased from Amazon)
-Hydrofarm FLT24 2-ft/ 4-Tube T5 Commercial System with Bulbs (Purchased from Amazon)
-Hydrofarm MTPRTC Digital Thermostat For Heat Mats (Purchased from Amazon)
-Style Selections 36-in H x 24-in W x 18-in D 3-Tier Steel Freestanding Shelving Unit (Purchased from Lowe’s)
The modular, adjustable wire shelving unit gives me the foundation for my indoor winter seed-starting setup. The shelves are adjustable so that I can hang the grow light on the underside of the top shelf, then adjust the middle shelf so that the top of the Bio Dome is about 6-8 inches from the light. This allows for enough room to remove the top of the Bio Dome in the event I need to access the plants for watering, fertilizing, etc. The bottom shelf is great for storing my remaining planting supplies.
The light is almost the same size as the Double Bio-Dome and provides 100% light coverage necessary for young plants to thrive. A few years back, I tried to use a light that was only 2 bulbs and half the size of the one I currently use. You could tell that the young plants would angle toward the light hanging in the middle, and those on the outer edges didn’t grow as quickly and tall as those in the middle. Take it from someone who spent – each year over the course of several years trying to find a light that would work well with my seed starting system. I knew about the Hydrofarm light early on, but wasn’t too eager to purchase it due to it’s higher cost. I wish I would have gotten it first because I would have saved money in the long run considering the poor-performing lights I purchased in years prior to getting the one listed above.
The Park Seed Bio Dome is an extraordinary seed-starting system that allows your plants to grow quite large without root binding problems found in other tray-type seed starting setups. Park uses the styrofoam cell matrix with replaceable organic bio-sponges in which the seeds are planted.
I regulate the temperature of the seed heat mat with the Hydrofarm MTPRTC Digital Thermostat set at between 85-90 degrees. This thermostat has a temperature probe you can insert into one of the organic bio-sponges to obtain a direct soil reading. I route the probe through one of the vent holes in the lid of the Bio-Dome.
In order to capture the most heat from the heat mat, while allowing the thermostat to regulate the temperature of the mat, I first take a folded beach towel and place it on the middle shelving rack. I then set the heat mat on top of the towel, then place the Bio-Dome on top of the heat mat. This allows me to recover most of the heat that would otherwise radiate from the exposed, bottom side of the heat mat.
Watering with the Bio-Dome setup is easy and, depending on how you have the vents adjusted in the lid, performed infrequently at best due to the efficiency of water vapor recovery of the Bio-Dome system.
I typically start tomato and pepper plants in mid-February so that they are ready for planting by the first week of May. You may want to check online for your indoor planting and outdoor transplanting dates depending on your region and climate.
I hope my sharing with you what has worked quite well for me will help you in your seed-starting endeavors!