I tried heating cables for the first time this year and my plants have been in the garden for almost 2 weeks now. I have 2 plants (one with jumpstart cables) and one without. For the plant without cables in the ground I decided to try something else and had a couple seedling heat mats I wasn't using so I placed one on each side of the plant on top of the ground. Anyway ... 12 days later the one with the heat mats is doing better than the one with the cables. I took soil temps and both at 8" down were 75F. The difference is with the heat mats it was warmer at the surface and the air temp in the hoop house was kept warmer at night. I think people assume heat rises so you can't get heat to go DOWN in the soil. Heat rises in air but in a solid or semi-solid (soil) it radiates in all directions. I'm no scientist, but that is my conclusion. Take from it what you want, but if you have a seedling heat mat laying around it's not too late to heat up the soil, even if your plant is already in the ground. They maybe don't heat up as much of an area as cables but they are definitely easier to use and by the time the roots grow out of the warm zone you likely don't need soil heating anyway.
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In the patch 2 weeks ago. Wow. Here in Cameron, Chris Lyons just got his plants in the ground on Sunday. Weather took it's time getting here.
Great stuff. Thanks for the info on the heat mats John. Your right, with having the heating pad on the soil around the plant. As long as it is touching the moist soil, it'll radiate the heat through the soil in all directions, as well as warm the air on a cold night to help protect them from frost. This would also help by not having to leave your heating cables in the soil for the whole season & exposing them to getting damaged. Once the soil is warm enough & the plant has adjusted to it's new location, you can remove the heating pads, without a problem.
I wonder if you buried the pad down just 1", would you get the same effect as having it just lying on the top of the soil? I suspect it would.
Phil & Jane