Making Seed Tapes
I used to think making seed tapes was a waste of time and I didn’t understand why gardeners would spend time making them.
That was until I was at my wit’s end trying to thin out carrot seeds that I had direct sown. I find it nearly impossible to get the spacing right on those tiny seeds. So I tried the seed tape thing and made enough of them to fill a four by eight foot raised garden bed.
The result? The carrots germinated with just the right spacing – NO THINNING! I was sold.
Besides the joy of not having to thin tiny seeds like carrots, there are several other advantages of making and planting seed tapes over direct sowing the seeds.
- Better harvest of straight, uniform looking carrots.
- Correct spacing of plants so no wasted time thinning.
- Seed Saving. No wasted seeds from heavy-handed over sowing.
- You can make the seed tapes any size or shape to fit your container or the shape of your garden bed.
- It’s a great kids project.
- It’s a great winter project. It satisfies my need to do some gardening things when there is still snow on the ground. When Spring hits, the garden marathon starts. Anything that I can do in the off season to get a jump on spring chores is welcomed.
What Seeds are useful for making seed tapes?
You can literally make seed tapes of any type of seed that can be direct sown in your zone, but I find this process more useful with tiny seeds like carrots, beets and radishes that are a pain to thin out. This process even works for small flower seeds!
What you need
- Paper Towels (I find two ply works best) – Not toilet paper!!
- An empty paper towel roll or similar item to roll the finished seed tapes around
- A paste mix of flour and water
- A ruler
- A marker
- Wax paper
- Tooth pick
So why Paper Towels over Toilet Paper?
One, paper towels are stronger and hold up better in storage. I sometimes make my seed tapes several months in advance.
Two, paper towels make much larger seed tapes than toilet paper making them much easier to later set in their planting place.
Let’s Make Seed Tapes!
Decide on your seed spacing. For my carrots, I prefer the spacing of 2”.
Using a marker (it’s easier to see than pen or pencil) and a ruler, make a dot where the seeds are to go. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
Make a paste of flour and water. You won’t need much. Make it of the consistency where you can drop a good sized drop of the paste onto each dot on the paper towel. A toothpick works well for this.
Carefully drop one or two seeds onto the top of each paste drop. You don’t need to press the seeds down. They will stick. I like to carefully remove any seeds more than two to a paste drop. If you’re doing many seed tapes, do it in sections so the paste doesn’t dry out before you drop in the seeds.
Let the tape dry for two to three hours.
Wrapping the seed tape for later use.
Place an equal size piece of wax paper on top of the seeded side of the paper towel. If you’re doing several sheets, layer one piece of wax paper between each seed tape to prevent the paper towels from sticking together. Roll the layers around a paper towel roll and fasten loosely with a rubber band, string, etc, to keep rolled.
I have rolled seed tapes together without the layer of wax paper in between, but found that some areas will lightly stick together which can rip the paper towels as you unroll them.
Store the rolls in a cool, dry place until you’re ready for planting.
To Plant The Seed Tape
Unroll the layers. I reuse the wax paper for two or three seasons so I keep those. Lay the seed tape seed side up on the soil. Cover the entire paper towel with soil at the same depth as you would if you were direct sowing. For carrots, that's 1/4th inch, just a light dusting of soil over the top. Make sure the soil stays moist until the seeds germinate.
When it comes carrots, I like to place a layer of cardboard over the soil and keep it wet until germination. I find it helps the seeds to germinate uniformly and more quickly, and it’s easier to keep the cardboard moist instead of worrying if I’m dislodging any seeds when I’m watering.