I REALLY REALLY don’t like to cull seedlings… I also don’t want our gardens to be full of overcrowded plants… so I have found that seed tapes are the perfect solution for those small seeds that are so difficult to “sow thinly.” I have also found that purchased seed tapes are expensive, and that they aren’t available for some of the more unusual or heirloom varieties I like to grow. That’s why I make my own.
I can make my own seed tapes using any seeds and for any planting distance. I can add extra seeds if the seeds are old or if I know germination for a particular seed is not as good. I can make seed tapes to exactly fit the size of the raised beds they will be growing in… and I can make any seed tape for practically just the cost of the seeds.
I make my seed tapes from four-foot long strips of toilet paper that I fold together on the perforations and cut in half lengthwise. One strip will make two tapes. Some people use paper towels, thin brown paper bags, or newspaper, but I prefer the toilet paper because it disintegrates more quickly. (I also don’t use newspaper because it is printed with soy ink.) I make a flour paste starting with a tablespoon each of water and flour and adding more water as necessary… I want the paste to be thick enough so it does not drip, but not “globby.” Next I spread out the paper strip and using a ruler and a non-toxic pen I make a small dot to mark out the recommended planting distance. (This information is usually on the back of the seed packet.)
Most instructions I have seen advise putting a glob of paste on the paper strip and pressing each seed into the center of the glob. I have a somewhat different method. I use a Q-tip to make a small paste circle outline, then use tweezers to put the tiny seed in the center of the circle. When the strip of paper is folded over and pressed together, the open paste circles will hold each seed firmly in place. I have found that the seeds will germinate much more quickly if they are not covered with paste.
Once the seeds are encased in the folded-over paper strips, I roll each strip in a very loose coil to allow the paste to dry. Once the paste is completely dry, I re-roll the tapes into a tighter coil and label each tape with a paper band. I store the tapes in a small plastic box in the freezer until planting time.