Gizmos that get the job done

Although many good gardeners germinate seeds with the barest of essentials, there are some fun gadgets that can make your sowing, sprouting and transplanting go even more smoothly:

Greenhouse effect


The most common are the covered trays that work like little greenhouses. Most have individual cell packs for seedlings plus special potting soil. The European designed Bio Dome, shown at far right, has a ventilated top and little, plantable "Bio Sponges" that substitute for soil. Seedlings are widely spaced so they don't crowd each other. The Park Seed Co. (

) sells a 60-cell version for $19.95; its 40-jumbo-cell version is $21.95.

The Ultimate Growing System is similar but uses a capillary mat so water is absorbed through the bottom of the cells, into the Super-Soil Growing Cubes, which helps to avoid over-watering. It's from Burpee (

) and a 72-cell kit sells for $19.95.

Heating mats

Waterproof heating mats are an aid when temperatures are low. Most increase the soil temperature by 10 to 20 degrees. The trays and cell packs are simply set on top. Hydrofarm's Seedling Heat Mat is available through retailers, such as Burpee, Park or Home Harvest (

). The smallest mat for a single tray measures 9-by-19 1/2 inches for $29.95.

Seed movers

There are several devices that make it easier to sow individual seeds, such as the $3.95 Seed Sower from Burpee or the considerably more accurate Pro-Seeder, for $17.95, from Thompson & Morgan (

). If you want to drastically improve on a kitchen spoon for transplanting, the $5 stainless-steel Widger is the best mini trowel made, from Bountiful Gardens (

). It's hard to imagine transplanting seedlings without it.

— Robert Smaus