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Old December 23, 2018   #12
rhines81's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2015
Location: Zone 5A, Poconos
Posts: 960

Heat mats are over-rated for germination of tomato seeds, peppers need a little more heat but still normal house temperatures will do in a pinch. Even if it takes a few days longer, most of us start our seeds too early anyhow!
Having said that, I personally put my seeds about 4-8" above my ceramic radiant heat units which is usually around 80-85F at that height. Some people germinate above their cable box, modem or refrigerator which are usually warm spots within the house. You don't need a tray or soil to germinate in, just a moist paper towel or coffee filter placed inside an unsealed baggie (checked daily after 4 days). I can just hold up a coffee filter toward a light and see if there are any sprouted seeds inside. Over the years, I have not really noticed any difference in germination rates for baggie vs soil/media germination methods. Just plant the seeds as they sprout.
I was talking with a fellow a few weeks ago and he actually puts the seeds in moist napkins, seals them in a ziploc sandwich bag and then lets it float around in his 82F tropical fish tank. I've never fully sealed a baggie before, but he says it works for him.
Germinating several hundred seeds takes very little space (~1-2 sq ft). Finding the warm/room temperature space for growing the sprouts to 8 weeks old (or older) is where the struggle comes in. In Florida, your unheated workshop / garage area would probably be good for that with enough lights.
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