So the weather has broken and the ground has begun to thaw, and my thoughts are on the garden! The tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds have been started in the little trays, and now it’s time to get the parsnips and carrots in the ground!
The problem with parsnip seeds is that they are tiny, flat and lightweight; they’re very aerodynamic! Trying to place them, with accurate spacing, directly into the ground is not as easy as one might expect, especially as breezy as it tends to be around here at this time of year! And carrot seeds, though they’re not flat & prone to flying off like the parsnip seeds do, are just tiny and a bit awkward.
One solution to make life easier is to go buy seed tape. This is a strip of paper-type stuff that has the seeds embedded in it. You bury the strip at the proper depth, and only have to worry about the row spacing because the seeds are already spaced in the ‘tape’. The ‘tape’ dissolves once it’s been planted. It’s a great concept, but it can be expensive, and you’re stuck with whatever varieties of seeds the companies offer.
I’m a bit of a cheapskate, and a foodie, to boot. The commercially available seed tape just doesn’t do it for me. I decided to make my own. It’s easy, and can be done with stuff pretty much anyone has around the house. It also makes the garden set up a lot easier on your back!
What you’ll need:
seeds of your choosing
flour paste (instructions given below)
Tools: scissors; some way of getting a drop of glue onto the paper (I use an eyedropper, but if you don’t have one, you can use a stick, a cheap, fine paint brush, or even a toothpick); some way of measuring; a clean workspace; a cloth or paper towels for wiping up stray glue drips. If you are really particular about exact placement, toothpicks are useful for moving the seeds & glue.
You also need to know the size of the space you’ll be putting the seed paper into, so you know how much paper you need to make.
Here’s a photo of everything I used for the carrot seed paper I made yesterday:
As you can see, I use cheap, single-ply, septic-safe bathroom tissue (referred to as “TP” from here on out) as the paper. It dissolves readily when saturated, which is a good thing, once it’s been planted! I use my fabric cutting mat as my workspace. I like to do it this way because it’s easily cleaned in case of spills, and the measured markings are visible through the thin TP, which makes spacing the seeds a lot easier. You can use pretty much any lightweight paper, though. Paper towels, old newspapers, etc. If you’re not using TP, you’ll just need to cut your paper into strips of anywhere from 1 to 4 inches wide (much wider than 4 inches becomes difficult to work with when planting).
The little bowl that’s to the right of the mat with a fork resting on top of it? That’s my flour paste. I used rice flour, because we don’t actually have wheat flour in the house due to gluten sensitivity, but you could use wheat flour, cornstarch, potato starch… pretty much any really fine powdered starch or flour would work here. To make it, you just put some flour in a bowl, dish, paper cup or whatever, then add some water to make a paste. I would start with 3 parts flour to 1 part water and stir- I started with around 1/4 cup of flour. The amount of water you need will vary a bit, depending on what kind of flour/starch you’re using. If it’s smooth and combined, and somewhere between the consistency of thick gravy and white glue, you’re good!
If it’s too thick (most likely it will be), add more water, about 1/2 teaspoon at a time, and stir, until you’re at the desired consistency. WARNING: There’s a very fine line between too little water and too much. If you make it too thin, just add another spoonful or so of flour and mix well. Oh, and be sure to not let this stuff dry on anything that you can’t let soak in hot water! It can be a real nightmare to get off!
Okay, so now you have all of your materials and supplies ready, let’s get on to the making!
Take a strip of your paper and lay it out at an angle that’s comfortable for you. I used a 4-sheet long strip of TP, because that’s an easy length for me to work with. Check your seed packet to check the recommended spacing for your seeds, and put your seeds on the paper at the recommended intervals:
Now that the seeds are laid out where you want them, give your paste a stir (it usually starts to separate if it’s left to sit for more than a minute or so), and put a drop of paste onto each seed:
Don’t worry if the glue drop isn’t centered just right on each seed; the glue just needs to be touching the seed to hold it in place. If you’re a very detail-oriented person, you can use a toothpick to manipulate the glue and seeds into exactly the right spot, but honestly, it is not necessary.
The next step is to put another strip of paper on top of the one that you just seeded & glued, and gently but firmly pat it down. The glue is going to hold the top piece and bottom piece together, with the seed in between:
Don’t worry if some of the seeds are not laying flat in the glue or if a seed or 2 seems to be poking out of the paper. As long as it’s in the glue, it’ll stay put.
If you are doing a single row of seeds at a time, you can use a single piece of paper. Just place the seeds along one side of the paper, and after applying the glue, fold the other side of the paper over. Personally, I find it’s easier to use 2 sheets, and I use the width of the paper as a way of measuring the row spacing, so I don’t do it that way. You can if you want, though.
Now all that’s left is to let them dry and then get them in the ground!
Once the seed paper has been assembled, I carefully lift them and turn them over, and lay them out flat to dry for a while. In my very, very dry house, with the super lightweight TP, it takes about an hour or 2 for them to dry enough to be gently stacked and put away. I’d advise putting anything on top of them, as the paste most likely won’t dry all the way through for a day or so, and even when it has dried all of the way through, you don’t want to risk crushing the seeds!
So that’s what I’ve been up to.
I hope you’ve found this to be interesting, informative, and helpful! This is my first foray into adding my own photos to the blog, so I hope they were helpful, too. Many thanks go to my mom for jumping in to take some photos of the gluing and patting process!