Wednesday, September 30

Seed tapes

Some people swear by seed tapes - biodegradable tape with specific (usually tiny or difficult to handle) seeds embedded at regular intervals to eliminate the need for thinning the sprouts. Commercial seed tapes can be expensive compared to loose seed, and are limited in varieties available - usually the most popular hybrids. Fortunately, seed tapes are easy to make.

Start by cutting strips of paper - we recycle grocery bags, food packaging, and other food-safe scraps. I like to keep the tapes narrow (1/2" to 1" wide), but you can make them any size you wish.

Mix a little flour and water to make a basic flour paste and dab the paste every so often along the tape. Set a ruler on your work surface for easy reference. Use the seed package "thin to xxx" measurement for the spacing of the seeds.

Place a seed on every spot of paste - if you keep the flour dots the same size as the seeds, you can save time by dusting the tape with seed and shaking off the excess for the next tape. Lightly press the seeds into the paste to ensure adhesion.

Allow the paste to dry, label, roll and store the seed tapes as you would other seed. At planting time, dig a furrow in the soil, unroll the tape (cutting to length if it is longer than your row) and cover with soil at the desired depth. Water well. The paper will rot away over time, and the seeds will sprout at the correct spacing.

What seeds are the best candidates for seed tapes?
  • row crops
  • small seeds
  • expensive seeds or those in limited quantity
  • direct-sow crops
How else can you use this technique?
  • Pre-set border plantings
  • Intersperse two types of lettuce or carrots for the same row to facilitate succession planting
  • Save time planting in spring - make tapes in the winter, then unroll, bury, and grow
  • Create a pattern or design of plants on a larger scale using the entire grocery bag or newspapers (avoid newsprint for food crops)
  • 'Plant-able' tags and cards for gifts or party favors
  • Paper flower bouquets that will grow
  • Container planting disks for herb collections
  • Garden gifts for children with colorful paper cutouts of vegetables to identify the seed
  • Allow persons with limited dexterity to plant seeds that are otherwise unmanageably small
I'll post more photos of the alternate projects as I get them done.

No comments: