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  • Buying a heating mat -- any reason not to just get the cheapest one on Amazon?

    Does anyone have a recommended brand for a heating mat? Do they all perform similarly or is there a particular brand one should avoid? I'm looking for one to help keep some surplus cuttings-in-cups warm on a bookshelf outside of the humidity bins. Adding a clear cup or bag on top would take care of humidity needs, but the house gets chilly and I'm finally caving and adding to the elaborateness (such as it is) of my rooting set up.

    There are a bunch on Amazon with similarly high reviews (Apollo, Sandalwood, and Hydrofarm brands). It should be an easy decision since all it needs to do is keep the cuttings warm, but... option paralysis has struck. Any reason not to just get the cheapest one of reasonable size (Apollo)?

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ilpage_o00_s00
    Last edited by Sarahkt; 12-16-2015, 09:11 PM.
    Sarah
    Bay Area, CA (zone: 9B)

  • #2
    I wish now I would've got the heat mat thermostat combo. The heat mat gets way to hot by itself. With the thermostat with it you would have a lot more options if you wanted to use it for other things. Just the plan heat mat alone would cook your cuttings.. But I think they are all pretty good..
    Kentucky Zone 6b

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    • #3
      What if you insulate a little by putting a towel on top? And add layers until you get to the desired surface temp? For the opposite problem, I read that keeping a flat sheet of styrofoam or some other insulating product underneath the heat mat minimizes the heat being lost through the bottom...

      Maybe I'm overthinking this. But my aim is to get one that works well, is not super expensive, and have the (near) instant gratification of 2-day Prime shipping to my front door.
      Sarah
      Bay Area, CA (zone: 9B)

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      • Erick
        Erick commented
        Editing a comment
        Well I have two pieces of cardboard as a buffer and it works OK but its definitely not the setup that I was hoping for..

    • #4
      Also be aware of the size you're ordering. I got the mats and thermostats but had to search to make sure I got the right size--needed plenty of room for figs and garden seed sprouting so got three of the 20x48.
      Bryant...Franklin County, VA...Zone 7a. Wish List: a 32 hour day....more sleep

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      • #5
        Thanks, Bryant. Are you happy with your choice? Which of the many mat brands and options did you end up with?
        Sarah
        Bay Area, CA (zone: 9B)

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      • #6
        I would definitely get the thermostat so it keeps the soil at the right temp or you could burn a batch of cuttings plus it saves energy

        This DIY incandescent light rope heating mat is pretty cool if you are handy or know someone that is. Cheap and decent size. Rope lights are $6 at Big Lots right now.

        http://www.vegetablegardener.com/ite...-seed-starting
        Don - OH Zone 6a Wish list: Zaffiro, Moro de Caneva, Nerucciolo d'Elba, Bordissot Blanca Negra, Rubado

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        • #7
          I've never used a heat mat. My house stays 70-72 all the time. If I were to ever get a heat mat though, I would get a waterbed heater with adjustable thermostat and put it under a water filled air mattress with a rigid covering like coroplast or something. Probably find on at a yard sale or in a friend's garage for little or nothing and they're designed for just that.

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          • #8
            Buy a hydro farm the difference is how the wire is insulated going into the mat. The cheap ones fall apart and will shock you or electrify the water that comes out of the plants. So you will grab it and get shocked.
            I am not sure about the other brands but I know the hydro farm are very good. There was a write up last year on figs 4 fun about the cheap ones. You should research it.
            Cian

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            • cis4elk
              cis4elk commented
              Editing a comment
              Exactly.

          • #9
            I agree with using a thermostat... I once had a batch of cuttings get cooked in no time. Needless to say I wasn't a happy camper. You could try to elevate the cups off of the mat and that might help out a bit.

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            • #10
              I bought some Jaboticaba seeds from fruitlovers a few weeks ago. They require minimum 70 degrees F at night and 85 F during the day for best germination %, so I bought 2 of the commercial size Hydrofarm mats in the 20 x 60 size along with the Hydrofarm thermostat via Amazon Prime. Works perfectly, I turn the temp down at night and up in the morning. The only issue is the mats have a small perimeter of material without heating lines, maybe a 1.5 to 2 inch strip all the way around, but each one easily heats 16 one gallon nursery pots. Like everyone keeps recommending go ahead and buy the thermostat, don't skimp, it's well worth it.
              Andre
              Western Orange County, FL

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              • Jaylyne
                Jaylyne commented
                Editing a comment
                How's your jaboticaba seedlings? I heard they take many years to grow. .. my aunt in fl bought a 3 year old plant a couple months ago for a decent price... her oher neighbor has a beautiful tall tree and we were able to sample some .... can't believe the fruit grows on the tree trunks.... wish I can grow it here but won't survive zone 5 temps

              • Fruitaddict
                Fruitaddict commented
                Editing a comment
                Jaylyne,

                They are doing well, thanks for asking. There is actually a few species and varieties which fruit fairly quickly. The yellow jaboticaba can fruit within 2 to 3 years, in a 3 or 7 gallon pot. The hybrid/red/precoce type will fruit in 3 to 5 years, and my first one out of 6 in 15 gallon pots just started fruiting this fall, and is on its 3rd flowering and fruiting cycle right now.

            • #11
              Thanks for the recommendations, everyone. Your feedback is much appreciated.

              Just finished Christmas shopping so was looking for areas to be more... financially circumspect? But sounds like the high-end one is worth it.
              Sarah
              Bay Area, CA (zone: 9B)

              Comment


              • #12
                It may be too late but I've had great luck with the Apollo brand before and the attachment of the wire to the pad looks sturdy. If I had to do it over or needed more heating space I'd get the Apollo.

                And I wouldn't be without the thermostat. They're cheaper together, here

                http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
                Last edited by Harborseal; 12-16-2015, 11:57 PM.
                Bob C.
                Kansas City, MO Z6

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                • Sarahkt
                  Sarahkt commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Nice, it's currently half off. I'm practically losing money not buying it.

              • #13
                Something else to consider is a humidifier. We keep one on near our plants in the evening and it's nice, warm steamy air. The rose cuttings love love love it and I think it helps with the humidity issues for newly exposed rooted cuttings. The one we have was less than $20. The best thing is that it also combats static electricity if your house is really dry.
                Zone 7a in Virginia

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                • #14
                  I personally spent a few bucks more on the Hydrofarm mats after reading about some cheaper mats being giving a shocking surprise. Seeing the CE and UL marks on the Hydrofarm mats was also reassuring since the company has at least had to perform some minimal regulatory diligence to get those marks stamped on their mats. That being said, the Apollo mat and thermostat look quite similar to the Hydrofarm ones. I wouldn't be surprised if they were manufactured in the same facility with minor modifications and rebranded.
                  Last edited by jkuo; 12-17-2015, 09:58 AM. Reason: Edit: typo
                  Johnny
                  Stuff I grow: Google Doc

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                  • #15
                    Sarah,

                    Even better and more inexpensive than a heating mat is purchasing an electric blanket and then covering the top with plastic trash bags. The total heating surface area you'll get is way more than any "heat mat" you can buy on amazon. This is what I use to germinate all my vegetable seeds each spring and it works great. Just make sure you can purchase one that has a dial with a lot of heat settings so you can get the blanket to provide the exact temp you want.

                    Best time to get an electric blanket is in Spring as that's when all the stores clear them out of their inventory. But if you need one now, I think this is a great alternative to a heating mat.

                    Malcolm
                    Malcolm - Carroll County, MD (zone 6b). Interested in cold hardy figs. Currently container growing, MBVS, St. Rita, Olympian, RdB, Beale, Sal's EL, UCD 184-15s and Desert King.

                    Comment


                    • eboone
                      eboone commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I did this last season, with my cuttings rooting in cups in a clear tote, kept the temp at a nice 76 for a couple months on end. What can I say, I am cheap

                    • DBJohnson
                      DBJohnson commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I wonder if the electric blanket could be used in conjunction with a thermostat. Hmmmm. (Off to research....)

                    • Esteban_McFig
                      Esteban_McFig commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Per Malcolm, this is what I did as well. I started digging into the heat mat search, then remembered the old--very old, like 30 years old--two thermostat controlled blanket I inherited from an older sister. It has a 1-10 scale instead of degrees, but I got it dialed in to 75 after a little trial and error over a day or two, using a digital meat thermometer. The cuttings went into about ten different plastic shoeboxes, 94 cents each at Walmart, some with sphagnum, some with coir, some with just the ziploc bags laid inside the shoe boxes. And I tucked some other start trays inside a couple of the shoe boxes for other hard-to start plants from seed--jacaranda, moringa, zahidi and medjool date palms, datura. Anyway, it makes for a tidy, consistent, dark, cocooned environment with the blanket both underneath, above and around the whole lot. The heat from beneath did tend to drive moisture from the sphagnum and coir, so I stacked the shoeboxes using those media atop the others containing ziplocs only. The "lay the bags on top of the refrigerator" thing lasted about two weeks, when I realized it was in the mid-50's up there and most of the cuttings were doing precisely nothing. And from what I understand, the Goodwills of the world have cheap electric blankets

                  • #16
                    If you save 1 tray of cuttings it will be worth it for the thermostat, I promise. Especially if there's a $3,000 cutting or several in there. I bought the 'high end' one (pad and thermostat) a few years ago because it was the only game in town for the size I wanted. Fortunately I had a remote thermometer in there (with the probe in the middle of one of the rooting bags) so I saw the temp get to 100 before they were more than medium rare. The wire attachment to the Apollo brand looks sturdier than mine and the thermostat looks identical. I'm sure the thermostat is the same unit with the shell printed slightly differently. And it is half off the Amazon hydrofarm price.

                    Wireless remote thermometers are not always reliable. Here's the best affordable brand. If you scroll down about 1/4th mile you'll see a comparison of different models. They take up to 8 remote sensors for the seedling bed, the 3 cutting warehouses, the 2 coldest parts of the garage, and the outdoor trees so you know when to turn on the Christmas lights

                    http://www.amazon.com/Ambient-Weathe...ent+weather+WS

                    If you heat your space you'll have to check for dryness more often. You can start out with the heating blanket wrapped around the cuttings but as soon as they bud out you'll need light on them. I started with a heating blanket but later went to the plastic pad. It ends up being easier and spilled water is never a problem. All modern heating blankets have an auto shut off after 8 - 12 hours so they are very hard to use, An older thrift store blanket may not have the auto shut off but then you have a higher risk of malfunction because of the age and use of the blanket. Be sure your blanket has a plastic liner or don't use it.
                    Bob C.
                    Kansas City, MO Z6

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                    • #17
                      I bought 3 of the Apollo 10"x20" mats a while back and have been happy with them. Bought three to get the free shipping over $35. I have a 1/2" thick piece of rigid insulation under it. You definitely need a thermostat or you will cook your cuttings. I run all three mats off a single thermostat. I monitor the temperature of a cutting-less cup of potting mix that is in one off the trays. Try and keep the moisture of the potting mix in the cup you are monitoring similar to the other cups with cuttings. All three trays have humidity domes so the environment is about the same for all of them. Haven't fried a cutting yet but the thermostat goes on and off all day so without a thermostat the mats would be on all the time and overheat the trays.
                      Bill - Long Island, NY 7a
                      Wish List: Glacia Negra and any fig from Bari.

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                      • Harborseal
                        Harborseal commented
                        Editing a comment
                        You just reminded me - I always stick the probe in with one of the cuttings and the one with the probe always seems to root first. Something to do with the iron? The electrical field? I don't know.

                    • #18
                      Thanks so much for the input, everyone! Lots of good tips and options. After mulling over all of your very (thoughtful) feedback, went with two 10"x20" Apollo mats and the Apollo thermostat (seems like a must). The mat looks safe, and similar to the crowd favorite. Can use the money I saved to buy cuttings, and now I can finally root them in style.

                      I suspect I will have to find ways to keep the cat from knocking off cuttings to get to the mat. She already has an uncanny ability to seek out and sprawl over the warmest surface in the house 20 hours of the day. I can see the rooting mat becoming a kitty Valhalla.
                      Sarah
                      Bay Area, CA (zone: 9B)

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                      • Sarahkt
                        Sarahkt commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Last year I made the mistake of buying nice cuttings on eBay with too much moisture and not enough heat, before I had a good idea of what to do. This year I'm determined my quality cuttings will not shiver, fry, or drown!

                        Yeah, the cat can help keep them warm too, I guess. Currently her throne is the humidity bin closest to the space heater.

                      • Harborseal
                        Harborseal commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I was kidding.

                      • Sarahkt
                        Sarahkt commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I know. I've received more thermostat recommendations than heating mat recommendations.

                    • #19
                      My cuttings stay warm on top of the fridge, same temp any day of the year. You can cover with a box if a higher temp is desired.
                      I tried a pad with a thermostat two years ago. It worked well but the area was too small.
                      USDA z 10a, SoCal. WL: Raspberry Tart, Boysenberry Blush

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                      • Harborseal
                        Harborseal commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Yeah, SoCal. So Cool. So much better than the rest of us who live in igloos. The top of *my* refrigerator varies from 63 to 68.

                    • #20
                      I got my last one at this place on ebay, they have several different sizes and have some combos.
                      http://stores.ebay.com/VMInnovations...sub=6450810015

                      Definitely get a thermostat
                      Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana
                      Buffalo WV Z6

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                      • #21
                        I use hydrofarm and they work very well. The thermostats are also a must. Well worth the investment.
                        Rafael
                        Zone 10b, Miami, FL

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                        • #22
                          I used mats and humidity domes last year, no thermostats. Started out doing fine, but I think they were a bit too warm. Ended up with gnats, too. No mats this year, and I almost think they're doing better. They're just in a sterilite box with a lid, coco coir inside, and so far are looking great.
                          USDA Zone 9b Wish list: Abruzzi, Pasquale, Filacciano, Tagliacozzo, Zingarella, Godfather. Any, including unknowns, from Abruzzo, Italy.

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                          • #23
                            This year to combat the gnat issue, I'm going to add 1-2" of sand to my pot. Hopefully that will greatly reduce the moist environment at the air/soil layer that gnats like to lay in.
                            Malcolm - Carroll County, MD (zone 6b). Interested in cold hardy figs. Currently container growing, MBVS, St. Rita, Olympian, RdB, Beale, Sal's EL, UCD 184-15s and Desert King.

                            Comment


                            • #24
                              Update: went with Apollo -- 1 thermostat coupled to two 10x20" heat mats near a sliding door for natural light. So far it works very well. The cuttings are rooting much more quickly relative to the negative control of cups left on a lower shelf without a heat mat (spare cuttings of varieties already rooting well on the mat were relegated to the non-mat area when I ran out of mat space).

                              The only thing is, one of these mats seems pretty small, fits maybe 10 cups and both the mats are already covered with more cups ready to be brought over from the humidity bins. I ordered a third at the end of last week, then after buying a prodigious amount of cuttings from Wills' sale, bought a fourth. I'll hook them all up to the thermostat with a power strip. Shame Apollo doesn't seem to have larger sizes. Thought it'd be best to stick with just one heating mat brand coupled to a thermostat in case they have different heat thresholds.

                              I misted the inside of the top clear cups with water to help maintain humidity and prevent the already ideal moisture level in the soil from going towards humidity. Most of the cups were already at the perfect moisture level before I moved them out, and I'm trying to water as little as possible. It's not an amazing set up (those lower shelves won't fit the heat mat perfectly) but it's the best place for overflow cuttings.
                              You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 3 photos.
                              Sarah
                              Bay Area, CA (zone: 9B)

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