I hate thinning.
Up until last year, I didn’t even know what thinning meant. Luckily, I attended a wonderful workshop at The Sentimental Farm where I learned the importance of thinning carrots (read about it here). You see, if you don’t thin your carrots, you won’t get any carrots. Or you will, but they will be tiny and mishapen. This is where this DIY seed tape will save your sanity.
The trouble with carrots is they have teeny, tiny seeds. Trying to plant these teeny, tiny, little seeds in the right spot can be a pain in the butt. Thinning the tiny little sprouts that come up a few weeks later is also a pain in the butt, especially when you have to throw away otherwise viable carrot sprouts (you can try transplanting them, but I did not have any luck). So what’s a girl to do when she wants carrots and doesn’t want to thin them on a hot summer day?
DIY Seed Tape
Seed what? Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either until I attended that workshop last summer. The instructors swear by seed tape. By using seed tape, you eliminate the need to thin out later on as seeds are spaced the right distance apart for proper growth. You can buy ready-made seed tape, but it’s a little more pricey than your standard pack of seeds. As an easy and frugal alternative, you can make your own DIY seed tape using items I would be willing to bet you already have in your house — especially the actual tape part.
Not a carrot lover? That’s ok, neither am I. But I do enjoy carrots for cooking and juicing. Seed tapes can be made for other varieties such as lettuce, scallion, radish and beets. Where seeds tapes come in handy for lettuce is in ease of planting. Ever try planting lettuce on a day with even the slightest amount of wind? Using seed tape makes it easy to plant teeny, tiny seeds even on days when the wind won’t co-operate. Another bonus of using seed tape for planting lettuce is creating unique baby green blends. For my baby green mix I combined a mesclun mix seed (Super Gourmet Blend from West Coast Seeds) with quinoa and amaranth for a super salad blend. I am making tapes for three varieties of carrots, one variety of early spring radish, two varieties of scallion, arugula, spinach and a couple different lettuce varieties.
What you need
- Your tape: can be toilet paper, napkins, paper towel or newspaper strips
- Small paintbrush
- 1×1 ft piece of cardboard (heavy scrapbook paper is the perfect size for this)
- Large Ziploc bags
Making your seed tape
Select your preferred tape. I chose napkins as they are the perfect size for using in square-foot gardening.
Take your piece of cardboard and make your grid. Carrots require 3 inches of space between them (especially the mammoth-sized Royal Chantenay variety that I grow for juicing), so your carrot grid will have 16 seed spots. Take a pencil and mark 1.5 inches in from the left edge of the cardboard. Make another mark 3 inches over. Do the same on the right side and again on the opposite side of the cardboard. Use a marker to make large dots where each of the lines intersect. These dots are where you will “glue” your seeds. Seeds like radishes and scallions can be planted a little closer together. Make a grid with spaces every 2 inches for these varieties. Check the back of your seed package for guidance in setting up your grid.
Once you have your grid made, it’s time to make your glue. Mix 1 Tbsp of flour and 1-2 Tbsp of water to make a paste, it should be thick enough to coat your paintbrush without dripping off.
Pour seeds in a small dish. Try not to pour too much as you don’t want to be wasting any seeds. Lay your napkin over your newly made grid. Dip your paintbrush into the glue and then into the seed dish. Pick up 2 seeds and glue to the napkin on the dotted areas. Once you have covered all of the dots, lay a second napkin overtop. Press down gently to glue the two pieces together. Write name of variety on napkin. Allow to dry.
Once dry, fold up and store in a resealable bag until ready to plant.
Planting your DIY seed tape
Once the temperature is right, planting your DIY seed tape is easy. Simply unfold the seed tape, place over the desired spot in your garden and cover with the appropriate amount of soil. Sprinkle with some water and wait for your perfectly spaced vegetables to sprout from the dirt in a few short weeks — no thinning necessary.
More DIY seed tape tutorials
Homemade Seed Mats from Grow a Good Life
Seed Tape DIY from The Evolution of Mom
Make Your Own Seed Tape from Learning and Yearning