The other day, we had a gorgeous sunny break in the dreary weather, and I rushed outside as quickly as I could to do some gardening. I dug deeply in to the raised beds churning up the damp soil with my hands. It was stunning; black, loamy, and so full of worms that I felt bad about using a pitchfork to turn it all over. I dug my fingers down in to darkness and sighed a happy sigh.
To those of you still shoveling out from the winter, you couldn’t imagine being able to get in the garden in March. To those readers who don’t garden, perhaps you think you stumbled upon the start of the worst ever letter to Penthouse. But you gardeners out there, you get me. You know that centered feeling you get when you’re finally digging once again after a long winter of idle hands. Clean fingernails are overrated. Bring back the grime.
Last year in November, I hauled an immense amount of composted chicken manure mixed with straw out to the garden beds. A cardboard layer topped with chicken crap, and then a nice thick blanket of straw created the perfect lasagna bed for the winter. The soil I found the other day was a gift I gave myself by doing all that work months ago. It was an investment in the future, and a testament in the belief that putting something in the ground will pay you dividends later in the year.
As I readied the beds for spring planting, I knew I would need to do some things differently this year. I have a terribly kept (because I tell you every year) gardening secret. I can grow stunning tomatoes in our maritime Northwest culture when others struggle. My pumpkins and blueberries could be the subject of a still life painting. But, the things that every gardener should know how to grow – greens, carrots, and beets – those elude me. It a likely combination of my lack of patience when planting small seeds, and my inability to appropriately thin plants if they miraculously start to grow. This year friends, this year I decided to try a new tactic with those delicious staples of a home garden. I made myself some seed tape.
Seed tape is a tool that gardeners can use for making sure that seeds are planted appropriately. The seeds are pre-spaced out, and easy to plant. Seed tape will never result in someone yelling “oh fuck it” after 10 minutes of trying to sow itty bitty little carrot seeds. Seed tape is the way to go. It’s also expensive if purchased from seed catalogs and garden stores. But it turns out that making it yourself is incredibly easy, and practically free. It is also the perfect project to force your kid in to if they are home sick from school and you want to reinforce that staying home is not a fun all-day tv and ipad-fest. 🙂
Homemade Seed Tape
Make planting your garden a snap this year with this easy to make and simple to use seed tape.
- 2.5 tsp flour
- 1 tsp water
- 1 pair scissors
- 1 roll toilet paper
- 1 marker
- 1 ball-point pen
- 1 chopstick, or other fine pointed object
Measure your garden boxes or planting area to figure out how long you need the tape to be. Place a measuring tape on a flat surface, and unroll your toilet paper to the appropriate length. I recommend doing a bunch of these at once so you have a ready pile of paper to work with.
Fold the toilet paper down the middle the long way. If you were in my mom's second grade class at some point, you'd know this as folding it "hot dog" style.
Look at the "thin to" information on your seed packet to find appropriate placement for your seeds. If you plant them at a distance that doesn't require thinning later on, you get to save yourself an annoying step. Unfold the toilet paper, and working on one side of the line, use a marker to make a dot based on your spacing. It is easiest to work in the middle of one side of the fold. See picture for this to make better sense.
Mix flour and water in to a paste. It shouldn't be runny, but you also don't want it so thick it won't come off the chopstick easily.
Dip your chopstick in the paste and dab some of it on the dots on the toilet paper. It is easiest to do the whole roll at once.
Carefully place one seed on each paste dot.
Fold the toilet paper over the seeds, pressing lightly over each seed to "seal" the toilet paper sandwich. Label one end of the toilet paper with the name of the plant, and what kind of plant it is. Unless you are a seed scientist, trying to figure out later if "Candysnax" is a carrot or pea variety, or a rap song might be a challenge in a few weeks.
Lay it where it will be undisturbed for a few hours to completely dry. Once dry, roll up and secure. I used paper clips.
When it is time to plant, simply check the seed package for appropriate planting depth, dig a trench, place the unrolled seed tape in there, and cover with soil. Water normally. Laugh while the crows that were watching you plant are unable to dig up the seeds the second you turn your back.
I’ll be posting updates on this method throughout the gardening season. I also have some “pelleted” seeds that I am going to be trying out and comparing to my DIY seed tape. And of course I’ll bring you along for all the dirty, wet, and blossoming details. Because after all, those Penthouse letters don’t write themselves!