*lot*cheaper.

To illustrate this, I will estimate how much it cost me to start a 72 cell tray of onions and a 72 cell tray of lettuce this month. I will not include the costs of things that can be used indefinitely (such as light fixtures, and tables). I will try to prorate the cost of things that can be used multiple times (like light bulbs).

*At the end of the article is a justification for the costs shown in the list; generally I try to overestimate the costs.*

**Seeds**: $3

**Seed starting mix**: $2

**Seed trays**: $2

**Water**: $0.10

**Light bulbs**: $1

**Heat mat**: $1

**Electricity**: $7

**TOTAL**: $16.10

That is the total for the the onion tray and the lettuce tray. If you divide that by 2, the total for the lettuce tray by itself would be $8.05.

$8.05 for 72 lettuce plants is roughly $0.11 per plant. If you buy lettuce plants at a local hardware store or nursery, you can probably expect to pay at least $1 for 4 plants, or $0.25 per plant.

*! The savings are even greater for plants that you direct sow (like squash), because the only cost is the seed and water.*

**Starting my own lettuce seedlings is more than 2 times cheaper than buying plants**In addition to the savings, starting my seeds gives me greater control over them. I know that they were raised organically, and I also know that they were well cared for and not neglected. There is also a sense of satisfaction knowing that you grew your plants from seed.

**Cost justification:**

*I used less than half of a package of both onions and lettuce, and each packet was $2.99.*

**Seeds:***I use a compressed seed starting mix that is $2.50 for 6 quarts (rehydrated). I only used 3/4 of it for both trays.*

**Seed starting mix:***I buy these at the local garden supply store for less than $1 each.*

**Seed trays:***At my water rates, $0.10 should buy me about 15 gallons of water, I doubt that the trays will use more than that before they go outside.*

**Water:***The two trays together will have 4 - 4 foot fluorescent bulbs, which are roughly $8 for a 2 pack. That is $16 for the 4 bulbs. Given that the bulbs are expected to last 30,000 hours, I should be able to count on them lasting for at least a few years and for multiple trays a year. I think $1 is a generous estimate.*

**Light bulbs:***: This heat mat was $20, and has already been used to start over 10 trays, and will probably start that many for years to come. At that rate, if it lasts 4 years, it will be 0.50 per tray.*

**Heat mat***: The 4 fluorescent bulbs draw about 32 watts each. If they are left on for 16 hours a day for a month, they will draw 4*32watts*16hours/day*31days = 63.5 kWh. At a rate of 10 cents per kWh, this would be $6.35 for a month. I rounded to $7 to account for the low cost to run the heat mat for a few days.*

**Electricity**
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