Homemade Seed Tapes

Winter can be frustrating for gardeners. 

There are days when it feels like spring won’t get here soon enough. Combine this with the knowledge that when it does, there is only a small window of time available, and a gardener can become anxious.

Last year, I tried to get a head start on planting the garden. Every year, once the garden can be worked, we try to get seeds into the ground as soon as possible.

We generally hand seed everything. I have nothing against small commercial seeders, but considering the way we lay out our beds, they aren’t very practical.

Allan has no problem helping me with larger seeds. Peas or potatoes are just fine for him to plant.

The first year he helped I chuckled when we reached the spinach. He found they were almost too small to handle, and spinach seeds are much larger than carrot or lettuce seeds, not to mention the extremely tiny cabbage seeds.

So last year, with ease of seeding in mind, I looked at ways to make seed tapes with some of the smallest seeds. Because we had a larger amount of carrots to plant then previous years, they were my first choice.

A seed tape is a very long strip of paper, enclosing properly spaced seeds. All the gardener has to do is lay it on the prepared soil and cover it. Seed catalogues often offer seeds in already prepared tapes, but not usually in the varieties I want to grow, and the extra cost for the amount we need is very prohibitive.

To make seed tapes I kept in mind the compostablilty of the paper in our cold northern soils. I also didn’t want to add any chemicals to the ground.

I choose to use single ply toilet paper. The paper was thin enough to decompose in one season and it came in long rolls. I thought it was perfect. To hold the seeds in place, I mixed them with some flour and then added moisture; the mixing of flour and water makes a sticky paste.

My first attempts didn’t work very well. After mixing with flour and spacing out seeds on the toilet paper I sprayed them with water and then folded the paper over the seeds. After they dried, the seeds tended to fall off the paper.

So I tried again, this time I sprayed the toilet paper with water at the proper spacing, added a seed, folded over the paper, and then sprayed it again.

The seed became entombed in the toilet paper. As the paper dried, the layers stayed together and the seeds stayed in place. When we planted them in the spring I couldn’t believe how quick it was to seed a row. And there wasn’t any sign of uncomposted paper at the end of the year.

Because the seeds were placed at the proper spacing, there wasn’t the extra task of thinning the small plants either. Given how busy spring can be, planting faster and eliminating work is always good.

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