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Seed Tapes: A Better Way to Sow Seeds

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Dorothy is a nationally published writer, columnist, and mother of three books and five children, who loves to garden.

It's easy to make seed tapes that save time

It's easy to make seed tapes that save time

What Is Seed Tape?

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.

Materials to Make It

  • Plain white paper towels
  • Scissors
  • Yardstick
  • 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 Tape

  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 wide or more. 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 Xs 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 the Tape

  1. When the weather has settled and it’s time to plant your seeds, prepare your beds, smoothing the lumps out.
  2. Dig shallow furrows and unroll your seed tapes into them.
  3. Cover them with about 1/4 inch of fine soil or sand.
  4. Water gently and keep the areas moist until the seedlings appear. They’ll be as straight and evenly placed as soldiers on parade. (That was a welcome surprise in my garden.)

Weatherproof Gardening and Family Fun

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 a 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!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Val S.A. on August 30, 2015:

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.

Diana on March 13, 2015:

going to try but the glue part has gotten me.

jhomarie on April 16, 2014:

mia y lee este documentoComment...

Donna on February 10, 2013:

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.

Betty Brown on January 30, 2013:

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.

Carolb on January 22, 2013:

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

Patsy Bell Hobson from zone 6a, Southeast Missouri, USA on November 09, 2012:

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

rmcleve on November 01, 2012:

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

Gracie L Sprouse from Virginia on October 31, 2012:

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

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on October 31, 2012:

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.

moonlake from America on October 31, 2012:

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 +

Jill Spencer from United States on October 31, 2012:

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

Mandy on March 28, 2012:

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!

Laura on March 28, 2012:

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?

Kristie from Texas on March 27, 2012:

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

Aida on March 27, 2012:

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!!

victoria on March 26, 2012:

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?

olshep on March 21, 2012:

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!

pilgrim on March 20, 2012:

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

are you talking about elmer's glue:

Bonnie on March 20, 2012:

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

Alma on March 19, 2012:

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

melissa on March 19, 2012:

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!

Garden Expert on March 19, 2012:

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 :)

Beth @ Aunt B's Kitchen on March 19, 2012:

What a super idea! Thank you for sharing this.

Martha on March 19, 2012:

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

Robyn on September 01, 2010:

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. :-)

dotnik on May 16, 2010:

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.

SpArKz on May 14, 2010:

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 (author) from Moscow, Idaho on March 05, 2010:

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

Elayne from Rocky Mountains on March 02, 2010:

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!

Anthony Goodley from Sheridan, WY on March 02, 2010:

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.

dotnik (author) from Moscow, Idaho on March 01, 2010:

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

RTalloni on March 01, 2010:

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

dotnik (author) from Moscow, Idaho on March 01, 2010:

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

RTalloni on February 28, 2010:

Terrific from start to finish! :)

shazwellyn on February 28, 2010:

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

Katie Butler from Sensual, USA on February 27, 2010:

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!

dotnik (author) from Moscow, Idaho on February 27, 2010:

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

jayjay40 from Bristol England on February 27, 2010:

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

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on February 26, 2010:

Yeah...keep on hubbing. :)

dotnik (author) from Moscow, Idaho on February 26, 2010:

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

Andrew from Italy on February 26, 2010:

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

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on February 26, 2010:

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: