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The Edible 2011 Garden is Here

January 25th, 2011

On January 16 I started my first flats seeds for the 2011 edible gardening season. I started half a flat of each ‘Red Burgundy’ and ‘Borettana Cipollini’ onions. Onions like warm soil, so I put it on the 10″ x 20″ seedling heating mat my mom lent me. I covered the flat with a clear dome to keep in the warmth and the moisture and waiting, checking on them every day of course.

When I checked them in the morning on January 21 and I had germination! That’s pretty quick for onion seeds, they always seem to take a little extra time. Of course there were only a dozen or so tiny shoots on that day. Seeing those first little green shoots of the seed starting season is always an exciting thing!

Yesterday every soil block in the flat had at least one little green shoot and most of them had three. Looks like these onions will be ready to plant out in the garden come March. I can’t wait!

I also have other onions in the basement planted only 2 days later, but since they’re not on a heating mat they haven’t germinated yet. I ordered a 48″ x 20″ heating mat which will have enough room for four flats. I’m hoping it arrives soon so I can start 4 more flats of onions. If you’re planning on starting a lot of vegetables that like warm soil as onions, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, a heating mat is definitely a good investment. Especially if you happen to have your seeds starting area in a 55 degree basement like I do. At least it’s the perfect temp down there for spinach and lettuce seedlings, which I take full advantage of mid-summer when starting my fall greens.

Do you use heating mats in your seed starting efforts?

36 Comments to “The Edible 2011 Garden is Here”
  1. Sue on January 25, 2011 at 5:21 am

    I’ve always used the top of my Bunn coffee maker. It holds 2 milk jug bottoms at a time and usually gets my seedlings up within 48 hours, then I transfer them to my grow lights in a warm room. I wish I had a germinating mat, but our budget is already stretched to the limit.
    Lucky lucky you getting to start seedlings already. I can’t until April 1.
    Our last frost usually occurs June 4. Sigh.

    Reply to Sue's comment

    • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 11:07 am

      Great idea to use the heating part of your coffee maker.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mark mile, Susy Morris. Susy Morris said: The #Edible 2011 Garden is Here #onions #seedsowing #onionseeds #seedstarting […]

    Reply to Tweets that mention The Edible 2011 Garden is Here | Chiot’s Run —'s comment

  3. Ken Toney on January 25, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I only have one heating mat that I use for a tray with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and melons. I wasn’t going to use it with my cooler weather crops, (onions, lettuce, spinach, etc. ). Do you keep the tray of onions on the heating mat the whole time, or just until they have germinated?

    Reply to Ken Toney's comment

    • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

      I take them off of the heating mat once they’re germinated, especially the onions.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. goatpod2 on January 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

    We don’t usually start our seeds inside though.


    Reply to goatpod2's comment

  5. Mary W on January 25, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I got a heating mat many years ago and find it invaluable for starting seeds. Since it has an adjustable thermostat, I also have used it to keep home brew at the right fermenting temperature.

    Reply to Mary W's comment

    • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 11:07 am

      Great idea to use it for homebrew & fermenting.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. farmgal on January 25, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I don’t use heat mats, as I find them to be quite pricy, but I do use the huge dog house plastic heat mats, it will hold eight box’s of seeds, it costs next to nothing to use, its waterproof and every spring they go on sale at the local farm store for 60 percent off.. I have one that is now six years old and going strong.

    Reply to farmgal's comment

    • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 11:08 am

      Thanks for the tip.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. Kaytee on January 25, 2011 at 11:28 am

    In my low tech house, I just used a regular heating pad. It’s probably not waterproof though.

    Reply to Kaytee's comment

    • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 11:44 am

      I used to use an electric blanket, but it broke.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Arika on January 25, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Do you need a heating mat in order to germinate things like onion seeds indoors or does it just take longer without a heating mat?

    Reply to Arika's comment

    • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 11:44 am

      You don’t “need” one, but some things won’t germinate as well, so you may have to plant more seeds. I find that I really need one here for peppers because they refuse to germinate without it in my cold house.

      If you have a warm spot in your home you can put your seed flat there, like on top of the fridge. Just make sure to check daily for germination and put under grow lights as soon as you see sprouts.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Arika on January 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm

        I have them under grow lights to begin with.. do they need to germinate without light?

        Uh oh!

        to Arika's comment

      • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm

        Nope, no worries about having them under lights. I usually put mine under lights during germination unless the seeds specify. Usually if seeds are buried (like onion, beets, etc) they don’t need light to germinate. With onions however you have to make sure they don’t get too much light, no more than 12 hours a day, I give my onions only 10.

        to Susy's comment

  9. David Grist, Gardner's Supply on January 25, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Nothing like a little seedstarting when the thermometer is hovering around zero. Here at Gardener’s Supply (8 deg. F today), we’re looking for some good “keeper” varieties that grow well in the north. Suggestions? We’re also going to try our Seed Tapes for green onions, come spring.

    Reply to David Grist, Gardner’s Supply's comment

    • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm

      I’ve had great luck storing ‘Yellow of Parma’ onions and ‘Juane Paille des Vertes’ for storage purposes (I always start from seed purchased from Baker Creek). I haven’t grown them but I hear that ‘Copra’ from Johnny’s Selected Seeds are superb at storage, I may try some sets for those.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Sue on January 25, 2011 at 10:25 am

        Susy, I’ve grown Copra for YEARS and the last ones I use up in August of the following year are just in just as excellent condition as the first ones!

        to Sue's comment

      • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm

        Thanks for the info Sue, great to know, I may order some to grow this year!

        to Susy's comment

  10. Donna B. on January 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I might have to look into that, my favorite veggie is Eggplant but I can never get a sizeable harvest due to slow growth and those pesky flea beetles!
    I might have to invest in a heating mat… it’s been on my “I want” list for awhile. It’s so great to see little seedlings so early in the year! I love that photo, your starting mix looks really, really nice.

    Reply to Donna B.'s comment

    • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      Homemixed, here’s the recipe:

      I always fill the flats, add the seeds, then I cover the seeds with fine vermiculite as it’s super easy for the seeds to push through and it retains moisture beautifully.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Donna B. on January 26, 2011 at 10:31 am

        Oh, I have your whole “Seed Starting 101” series’ bookmarked on my computer at home… do not worry!
        I will be delving into the world of vermiculite this year. I hear nothing but good thigns, and I have a damping off problem sometimes… so I will be buying that this year most definitally!

        to Donna B.'s comment

      • Susy on January 26, 2011 at 11:03 am

        For dampening off you can try watering your seedlings with chamomile infused water (you can purchase organic chamomile for a great prices from Mr. Rose Herbs (link in my sidebar). You can also try watering a bit less. I tend to let my seedlings get dry in between watering, that seems to help, as does having a fan blowing on them, I think the air movement is good not just for building strong seedlings, but for keeping the air moving.

        to Susy's comment

  11. Mrs. Mac on January 25, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I use the top of my refrigerator to germinate seeds .. it’s the perfect temp being that it is semi enclosed with about 5 inches of space between the top of fridge and the bottom of overhead cabinet.

    Reply to Mrs. Mac's comment

  12. Diana Smith on January 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Copra grow well and keep all winter here in so. MO so imagine they’d do great up North. Coming from MI we had to learn gardening all over again down here as it doesn’t get cold enough early to store root crops easily….balancing act starting things in mid-summer with enough time to get mature without being too early to keep. Really enjoy your gardening posts. Getting ready to open my greenhouse; usually do by 1st of Feb as my neighbors all want early cabbage and broccoli plants. DEE who uses a plain old heating pad and soon as something germinates it graduates to either the hot or cold room of my greenhouse.

    Reply to Diana Smith's comment

  13. Jacqui on January 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I’m starting my seeds indoors for the first time this year, one quick question: Once your seeds have germinated, on mats or otherwise, and they’re under grow lights, how long do you leave the lights on throughout the day? I imagine it’s different depending on what the plant is, but is there any rough guide out there?

    Reply to Jacqui's comment

    • Susy on January 25, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      On onions 8-10 hours, on everything else 12 hours. That seems to work well for me.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  14. Sincerely, Emily on January 25, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    wow – lots of great info in your post and then more in the comments. I planted seeds to start last week, then left town. totally forgot to put the platic covers on the flats….I will have someone do that! love all other heating mat tips. We keep our house at 60F so I imagine theheat will help speed things up. I just planted eggplant and bell pepper seeds before I left, I know they all like heat. thanks for all the great info. I miss reading your blog when I am away from a computer. E

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  15. Amy @ Homestead Revival on January 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    I tried the heating pad one year, but it just didn’t work well and I was constantly having to monitor it. Last year I purchased a heating mat for plants and loved it. What a difference! What I saved on growing my own seeds over plant starts will allow me to eventually recover the cost of my investment.

    Reply to Amy @ Homestead Revival's comment

  16. MAYBELLINE on January 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    I rarely need to start seeds indoors. Whenever I do, the heat/light in the east facing kitchen window is enough.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  17. Jennifer Fisk on January 25, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    I have a hog mat that I’ve used to keep newborn puppies warm and it works well to accelerate seed sprouting.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

  18. Daedre Craig on January 26, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I will be using a heat mat for the first time this year. I’m really really hoping that it’s going to rock my world! I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t change things much (plus it was pretty expensive).

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  19. annie on January 28, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I don’t use heating mats because they’re so incredibly expensive and I start *a lot* of plants. I normally keep them in a warm area of the house or create an indoor greenhouse under lights. In the past I’ve used a full sized greenhouse but they’re not very easy to use in our climate without supplemental heat (to much temperature fluctuation). I considered setting up an enclosed area above the dryer in the garage but we line dry almost everything now so it wouldn’t really work.

    Reply to annie's comment

  20. sarah on January 29, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I’ve been wondering about this… I live in Chicago and it’s very chilly in my house (50s at night, 60s during the day, colder by the windows). I want to start some seeds but I worry it’s not ideal.

    How much energy does one of these mats use? It seems like a good solution but on the other hand it doesn’t seem very sustainable, as I’ve been trying to cut out all the energy-wasters in my house…

    Reply to sarah's comment

    • Susy on January 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm

      This 9 x 20 Heat Mat only uses 17 watts to heat one tray of seedlings, that’s not much at all, less than most CFL’s, depending on the cost of your electric it would cost you between .75-$1.50 to run it for an entire month. The 20 x 40 Inch Seedling Heat Mat that I use now uses 107 watts. I find that because I keep my house so cold it’s a must have for me (peppers will simply not germinate in my home) and having a heating mat is much cheaper than trying to keep my house warmer for seed germination. I figure it’s the most sustainable option since I’m offsetting the electric use by growing my own food, which saves so much energy.

      Reply to Susy's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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