Sunday, April 8, 2012

Super Easy, Super Thrifty, Seed Tape!

By Jessica S. Herwick

Seed tape is a gardener and thoughtful landscaper tool.  It is used to manage the tiniest of seeds by securing them evenly throughout a strip of biodegradable material.  The strips can be cut and planted directly in your garden soil, producing evenly spaced, securely rooted plants.

You may have noticed seed tape advertised in seed catalogs or at your local nursery.  Lately I have been noticing seed tape making it’s way, more and more, onto the horticulture market.  I even saw carrot and lettuce tape for sale at the Lowe’s this year!  When I saw how much they were charging, I decided to come straight home and write this blog.  You see, I have been making my own seed tape for years, after receiving a free sample in the mail one winter.  It costs practically nothing and is made with materials you already have at home.  Follow the directions below to make, store and use your own seed tape and save your money for more seeds!

Why use seed tape at all?  There is a reason (several reasons, actually) why this item is becoming more popular among mainstream distributors.  Here are a few...
·        * It spares your back and your eyes: Planting seed tape is easier than crouching down over your seed beds and fussing with proper placement of the smaller seed varieties. 
·       *  It eliminates the need to thin seedlings: Seed tape places seeds the proper distance from each other and the paper holds small seeds in place while they germinate.  This prevents the sow-er from dropping too many seeds in one place (we’ve all done it).  It also prevents the seeds from gathering into small clumps and germinating together, which is usually why we have to thin the seedlings. 
·        * Perfection: It creates rows of annuals, veggies and herbs that come as close to being perfectly spaced as Mother Nature will allow.
·        * It gives the garden designer more control: Seed tape enables you to manipulate the seeds to create designs – imagine how much easier it would be to spell out your school’s name in flowers using seed tape for the design and planting!  Once practiced, even elementary school students could create a professional looking landscape or perfectly placed herb garden.

Newspaper (Black and White print ONLY! NO COLOR)
  Alternative to newspaper – white paper towels, white tissue paper
Wax paper
¼ Cup of Flour
¼ Cup of Water (room temperature)
Small Bowl
Paint Brush (small, hard bristled watercolor brush)
  Alternative to paint brush – toothpick, cotton swab

1. Cut newspaper (or paper towels, tissue paper) into long strips, about ½ inch to 1 inch thick.

2. Lay out wax paper.  

3. Place newspaper strips in rows on top of the wax paper.

4. Mix the Flour Paste: Combine ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup water.  Stir until a smooth, glue-like mixture is formed.  You may need to adjust – add enough water so that the mixture becomes thick, but thin enough to pour from the spoon.  Adjust consistency by adding more water or more flour as needed.     

5. Using a paintbrush or cotton swab, place one small dot of the flour paste where each seed should go.  I usually eye this up, but you can measure and mark the newspaper ahead of time to make this step easier.

Refer to your seed packets for spacing.  Different plants need different amounts of space to grow properly.  Using the tape should eliminate the need to thin seedlings.  So, you want to space your seeds using the final spacing noted on the seed’s packet.  Usually the packet will tell you to “thin the seedlings to #inches apart”.  This is the measurement you will use for spacing your seeds on the tape. 

6. Lay one seed lightly on top of each flour paste dot.

7. Place a clean strip of newspaper on top of the strip you have just prepared with seeds and press down lightly until you see the liquid wet through both sides of the paper. 

8. Label the strip of seed tape and set aside on a clean, dry piece of wax paper.
9. Allow seed tape to air dry for 24 hours on the wax paper.

To Store:  Place seed tape in freezer bags with a zip seal.  Tape can be gently rolled up or folded to fit into bags.  You can also roll tape up and store in a Tupperware container with an airtight lid. 

To Plant: Follow the directions on the back of the seed packet for planting times and depth.  Dig thin trenches at the appropriate depth and lay seed tape into the trench.  Water well (so the newspaper is clearly wet all the way through) and cover with soil.  Water once again, and keep your eyes peeled for seedlings to emerge.

Click here for more seed starting tips and money saving tricks!


  1. This is a great idea especially for someone who is handicapped - like me. I've used toilet paper before and that also works. This is alot sturdier. Thanks for the idea.

  2. Glad you like it! I especially enjoy the ability to control the placement of tiny seeds using this method. The newspaper is definitely a sturdier method, and thusly, it can be stored for longer periods of time. Let us know how yours turns out!