DIY Seed Tape

I’m going to tell you a secret, one that is really quite abominable consider I call myself a gardener – I actually hate sowing seeds outside. Not the fact of growing things, but the physical act of being hunched over the beds in baking heat (or freezing cold) making furrows, attempting to place tiny seeds at correct spacing, making sure they are covered to the correct depth….blah blah blah. It’s all just so tedious and meticulous. In the words of Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry’s, “if its not fun, why do it.”

This is why if a plant can be started from seed and later transplanted, I almost always start them inside. I have no problem starting seeds indoors, while seated on a comfortable cushion on a chair at my kitchen table. But not all seeds can be later transplanted. Some, like carrots, need to be direct sown. Which is a problem, because I love harvesting carrots, and I love eating carrots, so obviously I must do the sowing portion, too. In ideal world, I would succession sow every 2 weeks and have a regular supply of carrots. But because I hate sowing carrot seeds, I manage to get only one planting in, before I remember that I actually hate sowing carrot seeds.

This, is a carrot seed.
This, is a carrot seed.
These, are carrots that I grew from before-mentioned pain in the ass seed.
These, are carrots that I grew from before-mentioned tiny seed.

Enter- seed tapes! The theory behind these are seeds that are correctly spaced on a biodegradable paper. You simply unroll the tape onto the soil, cover to the correct depth, and water as normal. The seeds don’t require thinning, are in straight rows, and they won’t easily wash away when you water. You can buy seed tapes from several suppliers, such as these here, in different types of veggies, herbs and flowers. But, I decided to make my own! This is my process:seed tape

DIY Seed Tapes

  • Gather your supplies. You’ll need seeds, toilet paper (single ply), a paint brush, ruler, pencil, flour and water. I’m using carrot seeds, but any tiny seed would be practical: lettuce, onion, arugula, etc.
  • Pour seeds on a plate for easy access.
  • Make your glue. You’ll only need a little bit, so start with a teaspoon each of flour and water. Mix together to form a paintable paste, adding more water (or flour) as necessary. Mix well to break up any lumps.
  • Roll out your paper to the desired length. My raised beds are 4′ wide, but I usually plant in half sections, so I made my strips 2′ long. I also cut my paper in half lengthwise.
  • Consult your seed package or favorite gardening book to determine correct spacing (hint, if you use Baker Creek Seeds, they don’t list spacing; I go to Botanical Interest to see their recommendations). Using your ruler and pencil, make an X or other mark to denote where the seed will be placed. For carrots, most sowing guidelines are 1″, then to thin to 3″. I’m awful at remembering to thin, and often end up with twisted carrots. I did one strip 1″, to see how it works, but most of them where at 2″.
  • Using the paint brush, brush on a dab of the paste on your spacing marks. You can apply a few at a time.
  • Using the back of the paintbrush with just the slightest bit of paste, pick up one of the seeds, and place the seed down into the paste dab on the paper.
  • Allow the paper to dry overnight, then gently roll up and store in a dry spot until planting time. Don’t forget to label with the variety!

seed tape suppliesmarking spacing incrementsapply pastepick up seeds on the end of the brush

I found many different ways to do this project while consulting Pinterest, some used strips of newspaper, paper towel squares, or made their own recycled paper; try and see what works best for you. All of them, however, used white Elmer’s glue instead of paste. There could be a reason why, maybe paste won’t work, but I was concerned about the biodegradability of the glue.

I honestly have no idea how these will grow. This is my first time doing this. If they do well, I can see much more regular plantings of carrots, lettuce and radishes. I could even get fancy and do alternating carrot-radish on one tape to maximize my garden space and tape use. I plan on planting a tape, then planting a row of direct seeded for comparison. I’ll report back on how it goes!

3/3/16 UPDATE: These are growing great! You can read about that here: https://forgottenskills.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/planting-seed-tapes-how-they-grow/


DIY Seed Tape

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26 thoughts on “DIY Seed Tape

  1. My daughter just helped me sow carrot seeds this past weekend. A pinch, a count to three, and a WEEEE as she threw them in the air to land haphazardly on the soil amidst the lettuce. We’ll see how they fair…
    Because I’m with you. Especially with a growing belly in the way, squatting, bending, and leaning over raised bed sides to…do anything…is not in the cards.

  2. I have to agree – the hunched over planting process did me in this year. My carrots definitely weren’t straight and got crowded together. I think I’m going to give this a try. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’ve done this exactly as you said, even the flour paste, and it works. The only hard part was burying the paper evenly but shallowly,

    1. Hi Mark, that’s good to hear that it works! My thoughts on burying was to pull soil from the bed, level the area, then sprinkle back on top. Any other tips?

      1. I usually sprinkle soil or sand over carrot seeds, so I’d probably do the same with the tape. Some of the paper will likely show though.

  4. I tried a similar method a few years ago and was very disappointed when I unrolled the tape to plant it and all the carrot seeds fell right off! Arrrrg. Maybe I didn’t use enough paste? Who knows…but I hope yours works well!!!

  5. Great idea. and I love the idea of alternating the rows ( and may be different color loo roll for different types of veg and flowers) and most of the work done sitting on a chair inside! xxx

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