On December 21, I planted basil and parsley seeds in an attempt to keep myself cheerful during the darkest part of the year. Basil is a heat-loving plant and parsley is notoriously slow to germinate, so the whole project would have been ill-fated had it not been for one wonderful new bit of technology---the heated seedling mat.
Costing around $35, my seedling heat mat is large enough for one flat. It's made of heavy gauge vinyl and is designed to hold soil temperature about ten degrees above room temperature. My seeds germinated quickly and the little plants are off to a great start. Yesterday I moved the basil and parsley plants off the warm seedling mat to allow for a new project---I've just started lavender (medicinal for my bees) and chives. Later, I'll use the mat for peppers and eggplant.
Not all seeds require such warm feet. Last year my tomatoes and Brussels sprouts did just fine without heat. I plan to start onions, carrots and beets soon without the benefit of the seedling mat. But I can see that this is an excellent tool to help get an early start on spring. Many thanks to my friends Lynn and Charlie for introducing us to this!