How many times have you sowed a handful of teeny tiny seeds — onions and carrots, for instance, or even worse, those little specks called basil! — and wished you had a magnifying glass? Or sowed a row of teeny tiny seeds, only to end up thinning out over half the seedlings?
But it’s not just a matter of going cross-eyed when seed-sowing time comes around. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate, and the wind decides to pick up as you flick down a fingerful of seeds. Sometimes all you want is a couple of seeds as you gently shake out the packet, and a whole year’s worth pours out (kinda like getting that last sip of iced tea in your glass, and you end up with a face full of ice). I’ve been there.
But now I have seed tape.
Seed tape — basically a strip of paper with seeds embedded for precision planting — is sold at many nurseries, but you likely aren’t going to find seed tape in the variety you want. It’s also expensive for what it is, especially since I’m all about affordable DIY. You can make your own seed tape at home with nothing more than toilet paper and school glue!
First, find a cheap roll of one-ply toilet paper. You can also use two-ply and just split the toilet paper apart. Roll out a length to fit your garden bed. I usually don’t work with anything longer than 4 feet, just because it’s easier to manage several shorter lengths of seed tape than one extra long tape.
Using a washable, non-toxic glue (like Elmer’s), place small dots of glue on the toilet paper according to how far apart you want your seeds spaced. For most plantings, 1 to 3 inches is a good start as some seeds may not germinate.
I like to stagger my plantings, so I placed glue in a zig-zag pattern down the length of paper.
Now, using your fingers or tweezers, drop a seed onto each dot of glue.
You may be asking how this is different from simply going outside and dropping a seed into the ground. Why take the extra step of making seed tape?
The advantage is that you don’t have to deal with the elements, especially when you want to conserve your seeds. You can control the exact spacing of your seeds now, and figure out if you need more seeds. Since tiny seeds barely need to be covered, the paper makes it simple to see how much soil you’re adding on top. You can make and save several varieties of seed tape to sow throughout the year, quickly and easily. It’s also a good rainy day project when you can’t work outside in the garden… as soon as the sun comes out, you’ll be ready to sow!
Once you’ve glued on all your seeds, allow ample time for the glue to dry and make sure the seed tape is not sticking to your surface.
If you’re gluing in a single straight row, you can glue your seeds to the bottom half of the paper, and fold the top half over to secure them while the glue dries. This keeps things neater and your seeds will still be able to sprout through the paper.
When those little glue dots have hardened, roll up your seed tape and stash it in an envelope or zip-top bag until you’re ready to use. Be sure to label your seed tape!
At planting time, simply water your soil and smooth the surface. Unroll your seed tape, set it on top of the soil, and lightly cover with more soil. It’s okay if the toilet paper shows through a bit; it will quickly disintegrate and decompose in the ground.
As with all teeny tiny seeds sown by seed tape or even the traditional way, gently mist the soil until the seeds have sprouted and established firm roots; you don’t want a strong blast of water to displace your meticulous work. Within a week you should see perfectly spaced rows of little seedlings coming up!