This is my first year with the Geopod propagator so I’ve yet to see quite how effective it will be. Having said that, knowing it’s pedigree, I’m very confident it will do the job. It’s from Greenhouse Sensations who make the Vitopod Propagator that has served me well for 9 years now.
Where the Geopod propagator scores is that it incorporates grow-lights. The problem with sowing seeds early in the season isn’t temperature. It’s easy to provide enough warmth by starting them indoors on a window sill. The problem is providing enough light. Short days with weak light results in drawn, leggy seedlings that never seem to make strong plants.
The Geopod utilises Sun Blaster long-life, fluorescent grow-lights which, due to their special reflectors give 300% more lumens than fluorescents alone. This reduces their power consumption considerably.
I’ve got the smaller Geopod which comes with two 24 watt lights linked together and powered separately from the propagator. Being separately powered is important because of the way you use grow lights.
How to Use Grow-lights
The purpose of these lights is to extend the day’s length and to supplement the weak light during winter days to promote strong growth in seedlings and plants. The lights sit in grooves on the propagator lid and are linked together.
So whilst the propagator is on for 24 hours a day, the lights are only on for 10 to 12 hours. With some things, like onions that are sensitive to day length, too long a day can be counter-productive. This highlights a shortfall in the system – the lights could do with an automatic timer to control them. This was easily remedied for a couple of pounds from Ebay.
I’m setting the clock to come on before dawn and stay on until after. It’s possible this way to shift the time of year from February to March or April. There’s an article on day length along with a chart showing sunrise, sunset and length of day here: Day Length and Growing Plants
Accurate Temperature Control
The temperature is very accurately controlled by a Thermoset thermostatic controller. The power goes into the Thermoset which monitors the temperature in the propagator by means of a probe that you slip through the propagator lid’s vents and switches the heating on and off as required.
It has any easy to read illuminated screen with large digits, which turns off after one minute of non use in order to reduce energy consumption. It has a ‘heat on’ indicator which tells you when your appliance is drawing power and a remote heavy duty sensor probe for accurate positioning, this probe is IP68 rated which means it can stand long periods of water immersion.
The Thermoset casing is constructed using waterproof seals preventing any water ingress meaning it can be sited in areas of spray and high humidity.
The propagators come in two sizes. The standard, with 60cm lights, takes 4 half size seed trays and the large, with 90cm lights, takes 12. The standard (50W) measures 62cm L x 43cm W x 28cm H externally and the large (100W) measures 112cm L x 63cm W x 29cm H externally.
The heated base is designed to give a 12ºC uplift on ambient temperature. If you want a temperature of say 20º to germinate you will need a minimum room temperature of 8ºC. I’ve got a thermostatically controlled electric heater in my potting shed to maintain this when it’s really chilly out.
Both come with a double-vented, 23cm high lid. The vents mean you can control humidity to a degree, reducing the incidence of damping off.
Cost & Value for Money
The standard Geopod runs at £129.95 and the large at £189.95 at time of writing. This may seem quite pricey but the components that make up the system are all high quality. Many propagators only offer an uplift of 8ºC on ambient as against the 12ºC offered by the Geopod
Just buying the grow-lights and the Thermoset controller for the standard Geopod would set you back around £114.00 – and you can’t buy a decent propagator for £16.00! So I think the system offers excellent value.
My only regret is having the standard instead of the large, but I’ve only a limited amount of bench space!
The Geopod (both sizes) propagators are available from Harrod Horticulture here