Seed Tapes: A Better Way to Sow Seeds
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
- a yardstick
- a pencil
- white glue
- seal-able 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
- Thoroughly wash your hands and the counter where you will work. This thwarts “damping off” and other maladies that seeds can get.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Put a drop of glue on each X. For large seeds make it a big drop.
- 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.
- 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!