Make Seed Tapes: A Better Way to Sow Seeds

Updated on February 27, 2010
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!

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        Val S.A. 2 years 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.

      • profile image

        Diana 3 years ago

        going to try but the glue part has gotten me.

      • profile image

        jhomarie 4 years ago

        mia y lee este documentoComment...

      • profile image

        Donna 5 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.

      • profile image

        Betty Brown 5 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.

      • profile image

        Carolb 5 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

      • Patsybell profile image

        Patsy Bell Hobson 5 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.

      • profile image

        rmcleve 5 years ago

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

      • galleryofgrace profile image

        galleryofgrace 5 years ago from Virginia

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

      • Sherry Hewins profile image

        Sherry Hewins 5 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.

      • moonlake profile image

        moonlake 5 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 +

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image

        Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

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

      • profile image

        Mandy 6 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!

      • profile image

        Laura 6 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?

      • profile image

        Kristie from Texas 6 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Aida 6 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!!

      • profile image

        victoria 6 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?

      • profile image

        olshep 6 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!

      • profile image

        pilgrim 6 years ago

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

        are you talking about elmer's glue:

      • profile image

        Bonnie 6 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Alma 6 years ago

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

      • profile image

        melissa 6 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!

      • profile image

        Garden Expert 6 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 :)

      • profile image

        Beth @ Aunt B's Kitchen 6 years ago

        What a super idea! Thank you for sharing this.

      • profile image

        Martha 6 years ago

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

      • profile image

        Robyn 7 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. :-)

      • profile image

        dotnik 7 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.

      • profile image

        SpArKz 7 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 profile image

        dotnik 8 years ago from Moscow, Idaho

        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

      • elayne001 profile image

        Elayne 8 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!

      • MyWebs profile image

        Anthony Goodley 8 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.

      • dotnik profile image

        dotnik 8 years ago from Moscow, Idaho

        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 profile image

        RTalloni 8 years ago from the short journey

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

      • dotnik profile image

        dotnik 8 years ago from Moscow, Idaho

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

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 8 years ago from the short journey

        Terrific from start to finish! :)

      • shazwellyn profile image

        shazwellyn 8 years ago from Great Britain

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

      • obsexed profile image

        Katie Butler 8 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!

      • dotnik profile image

        dotnik 8 years ago from Moscow, Idaho

        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 profile image

        jayjay40 8 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

      • ripplemaker profile image

        Michelle Simtoco 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

        Yeah...keep on hubbing. :)

      • dotnik profile image

        dotnik 8 years ago from Moscow, Idaho

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

      • hypnodude profile image

        Andrea 8 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. :)

      • ripplemaker profile image

        Michelle Simtoco 8 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: