Make Seed Tapes: A Better Way to Sow Seeds

It's easy to make seed tapes that save time
It's easy to make seed tapes that save time

Spring is the busiest time in the garden, and any way you can save time is welcome. In seed catalogs I saw the term “seed tapes” and when I saw their high price I decided to make my own. It’s easy and fun, and it saves time and money at planting time. Besides it has always pained me to commit “seedlingcide” with the surplus plants that sprouted, no matter how sparsely I sowed seeds.

A seed tape is a strip of biodegradable paper with globs of adhesive in which you’ve sown seeds at the recommended spacing. Water dissolves the paper and adhesive, so the seeds germinate exactly where you want them.

Here's what you need to make seed tapes

plain white paper towels
scissors, a yardstick, a pencil,
white glue
sealable plastic bags
seeds, both flower and vegetable seeds work well with this system
tweezers (optional)
food color if you want to color code your seed tapes (optional)

How to make seed tapes

1. Thoroughly wash your hands and the counter where you will work. This thwarts “damping off” and other maladies that seeds can get.
2. Unroll paper toweling to the length you want your rows. But be aware that if they’re much longer than three feet they seem to develop a mind of their own.
3. Cut the toweling lengths into strips one inch or more wide. The wider paper stops other maverick seeds from sprouting and causing competition with the seeds you want to grow.
4. With a yardstick and pencil draw a line down the middle of each strip. On your first seed packet find how far apart those seeds should be sown. Make X’s on your line that far apart. Write the name and variety at the top of the strip. Do the same with your other strips.
5. Put a drop of glue on each X. For large seeds make it a big drop.
6. Place a seed on each drop, using tweezers if this is hard to do. Cover the seed with another drop of glue. Do the same thing with your other seeds.
7. Dry the seed tapes thoroughly, then roll them up and seal them in plastic bags. Label each bag with the name and variety of the seeds or, trust me, you’ll find rutabagas growing in your flowerbed and hollyhocks in with your vegetables.

Planting your seed tapes

When the weather has settled and it’s time to plant your seeds, prepare your beds, smoothing the lumps out. Dig shallow furrows and unroll your seed tapes into them. Cover them with about a ¼ inch of fine soil or sand. Water gently and keep the areas moist until your seedlings appear. They’ll be as straight and evenly placed as soldiers on parade. (That was a welcome surprise in my garden.)

This is a fun project you can tackle when you want to garden and the weather is too unsettled to work outside. It is also a good way to introduce children to gardening by letting them help make seed tapes. Children are then eager to see their flowers and veggies appear and to help harvest them. I think you’ll also find them eating produce willingly after they’ve helped to prepare the seeds for planting.

A fascinating project for older children is to take an opened sheet of newspaper (preferably the want ads) and let them write their name on it very large with magic marker. Make X’s on their name as far apart as the seeds should be placed. Short plants like alyssum, lobelia, dwarf marigolds and zinnias are good choices. Plant the sheets of paper where they want their names to appear in living color and you’ll be surprised at how willing they are to weed those beds!

Comments 43 comments

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Very interesting..very interesting..maybe the kids in our preschool will enjoy this activity! LOL And now for the wonderful exciting news! This hub has been officially chosen and handpicked for the Hubnuggets! this and you will see:

hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

This is great, not only I've rated it up and stumbled it, but you've won a follower. Well done. :)

dotnik profile image

dotnik 6 years ago from Moscow, Idaho Author

Thank you! Your comments inspire me to submit more gardening hubs! Dotnik

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Yeah...keep on hubbing. :)

jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

I've seen these in the shops and they are so much dearer than normal seeds. Well done on the hub, I'm going to vote for this hub

dotnik profile image

dotnik 6 years ago from Moscow, Idaho Author

Thanks so much for your vote of confidence. I've figured out how many feet of seed tapes I'll need for this year and it comes to 51 feet. I already have my perennial seeds planted and they will go into newspaper pots I make after they germinate. Maybe that would be a good hub at this time of year. Dotnik

obsexed profile image

obsexed 6 years ago from Sensual, USA

I had never thought to make my own seed tapes. This is a great idea. I really like how to make a name. I'll have to try this. Thanks!

shazwellyn profile image

shazwellyn 6 years ago from Great Britain

Now this is what I call unique! Well done.. practical, cheap and effective! Thanks for sharing x

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

Terrific from start to finish! :)

dotnik profile image

dotnik 6 years ago from Moscow, Idaho Author

You all make me feel so good!I have a lot more ideas I hope you will like. Dotnik

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

Do you think that putting the seeds on masking tape would work well?

dotnik profile image

dotnik 6 years ago from Moscow, Idaho Author

The tender seedlings might have trouble with masking tape, and if you have a lot of seeds to tape, it could get a lot more expensive than white glue. It would also be awkward to put the seeds on the tape or on the paper and get the masking tape straight. But I'd try both ways if you want to experiment. Dotnik

MyWebs profile image

MyWebs 6 years ago from Sheridan, WY

Easy to follow practical advice. I used to love gardening when I had a backyard. No such space in my apartment complex. I would try container gardening but this place is rather picky about having anything outside.

Congratulations on your HubNuggets nomination. You got my vote.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

I do square foot gardening so not sure how I can integrate this, but I think it is a great idea for those who have more land to plant. Never even thought of it. Thanks and aloha!

dotnik profile image

dotnik 6 years ago from Moscow, Idaho Author

Seed tapes don't work as well with no garden or a little one, but they are a great way to space plants. Thanks for your comments. Dotnik

SpArKz 6 years ago

I've heard you can do this without the white glue, just water..

Does anyone know the difference?

Just not work quite as well?

Is white glue harmful?

dotnik 6 years ago

You need the white glue to make the seeds stick to the paper at the right spacing. I've used these seed tapes and the seeds germinated just fine, so I don't think the glue harms them.

Robyn 6 years ago

I assume the white glue is just flour and water - it is what I will try anyway. Great idea for the tape - thanks for sharing. :-)

Martha 4 years ago

Do you use a particular white glue? I saw the comment about flour and water, and wonder if that is doable?

Beth @ Aunt B's Kitchen 4 years ago

What a super idea! Thank you for sharing this.

Garden Expert 4 years ago

The reason why seed tape works so well is because It saves seeds, you do not have to thin, Your rows are perfect, You can control the seeds, oh course very small seeds put two on each dot of (homemade flour glue). If you do it far enough in advance, all you have to do is unroll the tape and go put them in your garden. Very simple. Make sure your paper towels are beach free, even TP works great but only use 1 ply. 2 ply is too thick. Someone also asked if you could use masking tape? NO, you want the paper to break down asap :)

melissa 4 years ago

Awesome! I'm definitely trying this out! We live in a very dry, windy area and it is so hard to get spring planting done. Thanks!

Alma 4 years ago

I love this idea. Thank you so much Dotnik. Please keep them coming.

Bonnie 4 years ago

I love this idea of a seed tape. I'm going to try it. Thank you so much.

pilgrim 4 years ago

do you make the white glue" what is the recipe:

are you talking about elmer's glue:

olshep 4 years ago

I have bought seed tapes in the stores but I will be making my own now. Will make my glue from flour and water just thick enough to make a paste!

victoria 4 years ago

dotnick...I posted your idea on Pinterest and you've gone viral I have had over 120 responces or (repins)in other words you've gone viral. I expect to have more response that the initial 120. Hope to see you join Pinterest you have a great following! By the way I have never had this much activity on any of my previous pins hummmm?

Aida 4 years ago

Dotnick, this is fantastic. OUr plants always get bunched up because the seeds fall in a group. We lose a great deal that way. This is perfect. Will try this season. Thank you!!

Kristie from Texas 4 years ago

Found your post on Pinterest...Love it! Thank you!!

Laura 4 years ago

Once the seed tapes are done, do I put water on them when they are in the bags or just wait until they are planted to start watering?

Mandy 4 years ago

Hi, I found your post on Pinterest as well and so glad I did just in time for planting! I'm excited to try this tomorrow. Also glad I saw the post about flour and water because I was going to try Elmers which probably wouldn't have worked. lol Thanks for the idea!

The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States

Can't wait to try this! Voted up & shared. --Jill

moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

You have came up with a great idea. Just by your comments you can see how many people are interested in doing this. I voted up and shared. Will also add you to Google +

Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 3 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

It sounds good, I don't like thinning seedlings either. It just seems wrong to kill the little plants, and after I paid good money for the seeds. The tape sounds really practical, but I think writing the kids names sounds like a lot of fun! Great ideas, voted up and shared.

galleryofgrace profile image

galleryofgrace 3 years ago from Virginia

What an excellent idea, thanks for sharing. no more helter skelter planting!

rmcleve profile image

rmcleve 3 years ago from Woodbridge, VA

AWESOME info! I forgot about this method of sowing seeds. It seems so much easier and less messy! Thanks for the fantastic hub.

Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 3 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

Great idea. I may give this a try during the winter, while I impatiently wait for planting season. Up and useful.

Carolb 3 years ago

keep things like this coming. I have foster kids and this is a great activity for them to help keep them not only occupied but they feel a great accomplishment to have control over something that will grow. Thanks

Betty Brown 3 years ago

I made my glue 1 cup water and 1tablespoon corn starch put in pot bring to a boil cook until thickens let cool it is ready to use.

Donna 3 years ago

I tried both, glue & flour paste and both methods encased the seeds ,

prohibiting their emergence, and none germinated.

I still wanted to make a seed tape, so instead of putting the seeds directly on /in the glue,/paste, I made a little circle and placed the seed inside the circle, not touching. It worked perfectly. Had a great crop of vegetables.

jhomarie 2 years ago

mia y lee este documentoComment...

Diana 19 months ago

going to try but the glue part has gotten me.

Val S.A. 13 months ago

I am from South Africa and saw your wonderful idea on Pinterest. Saw a program on our S.A. TV Network about a group of young girls who have started up a company in S.A. making Seed Tapes. Beautiful concept, everything was so bright and colourful. I hope they do well.

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