Seed tape is just a fancy term for seeds (usually very small seeds) attached to paper to make planting easier. You lay the seed tape in the soil, cover it with a bit more soil, and boom, you’re done. Super gratifying. You can buy seed tape from most seed suppliers, but it’s $$, and seed suppliers have very limited varieties of seed tape. If you make your own seed tape, it means you aren’t limited by what the seed houses carry – you can have any seed you desire!
This project is pretty simple, and one the kids can help with 😉 Seed tape is usually reserved for very small (easily lost/hard to see), direct sow seeds. It’s definitely not necessary for larger direct sow seeds, like peas.
What do you need to make seed tape?
To get started you’ll need:
- seeds! your choice 😉
- “paper” – newspaper (avoid colored ink), toilet paper, paper towels, or tissue paper
- ruler – to measure spacing
- marker – to mark seed spacing
- small plate (for seeds)
- small bowl – to mix paste
- flour and water (2 to 1 ratio) – consistency of thick pancake batter
- envelope(s) (labeled) to keep seeds until planting time
- damp cloth for cleaning up any drips
Let’s start with the paper. Even though newspaper is about the simplest (and usually free!) to obtain, it’s not my favorite for this project (but it does work). In my experience, newspaper tends to get “brittle”, making the seeds want to pop off, even with adequate paste; and it doesn’t press into the soil as nicely as other materials. My favorite paper (though admittedly, it’s a sensitive topic right now) is toilet paper. Toilet paper will break down much faster than the newspaper (after all, that’s what it’s designed to do 😉 ). Use what you have and are comfortable with.
Cut the paper into strips about 1-1 1/2” wide. I like to cut the strips to fit the length of the bed I’m going to plant in, but if you don’t know what the size of your planting area will be, I’d start with 12-18” strips. You can always tear them to size at planting time.
Seed tape works best for tiny seeds that can be easily lost in the soil, and for crops like root vegetables that can’t be transplanted. It’s also wonderful for keeping your plant spacing spot-on. There are always a few seeds that don’t germinate, so you might want to plant knowing you’re planning on thinning the seedlings later. About 2x the recommended rate would be plenty (unless you’re dealing with very old seed).
Use a ruler to make marks that following the spacing recommended on your seed packet.
In a small bowl, mix a bit of flour and water in a small bowl to make a paste. It should be about the consistency of a thick pancake batter. A little paste goes a long way. One teaspoon of flour mixed with about 1/2” teaspoon of water is about right.
Using a toothpick, put a small drop of paste on each of your marks. Use enough paste for the size seed you’re using. If you have something small like carrot or lettuce seed, a small drop is usually enough. For something larger, like beet seed, you probably want a drop of paste about the size of a small pea.
Put one seed on each drop of paste. I like to use a toothpick with a tiny bit of paste on the end to pick up the seed, and place it on the paste drop.
Place the seed on the paper, and while the paste is still damp, fold the paper in half over the seed to seal it in.
Label your seed tape!
Allow them to dry completely. Store your labeled homemade seed tape for up to 1 year in a cool, dry place.
When the time comes to plant your seed tape, one thing to remember – seed tape will need some extra water, because you aren’t only keeping the seeds most, but the seed tape, as well.
Good luck, and have fun! And if you’d like to share pictures of how your seed tape turns out, I’d love to see it.
until next time, keep the green side up,