Winter is a great time to prepare for spring seeding. These make-ahead seed tape and mats will save you time and ensure your seeds are properly spaced.
Have you had issues in the past planting seeds so that they are properly spaced? Do you usually end up overseeding? One way to make seeding more accurate is to use seed tape and mats.
What are seed tape and mats? You may have seen seed tape/strips advertised in some seed catalogues or at your local nursery. Probably you won’t find seed mats though.
Essentially seed tapes are made by sticking seeds onto paper in a long strip. Seed mats are the same idea just in a grid layout instead of rows.
These are easy to make yourself, so no need to go out and buy them. This how-to details all the steps needed to create them from materials you probably already have at home. The seeds are likely the only supplies you will need to buy if you don’t have any or the right kinds at home.
Advantages of seed tape and seed mats
Seed tape and mats allow you to prepare your seeds ahead of time in neatly ordered rows or grids, spaced out according to the recommendations on the seed packet or seed catalogue. This is especially useful for the finer seeds such as carrot, lettuce and celery.
Spacing of your seeds and the eventual plants that sprout from them is critical to avoid overcrowding which can lead to all kinds of issues such as pest infestations and disease. Correct spacing also can improve your harvests and use space efficiently.
Making seed tapes and mats yourself allows you to use any seeds you can purchase or save from previous years – pre-made seed tape that you can buy usually is limited to the most popular seed varieties.
1. Prepare the supplies and tools
This is a great task to do in winter as it can all be done inside on the kitchen counter or dining room table where it’s warm and dry.
First step is to gather up the supplies and tools you need:
- Roll of paper towels*
- Roll of toilet paper*
- Seeds – pick the small seeds that are hard to plant, I did lettuce and green onion for this how-to, carrot is also a good choice
- White flour*
- Baking Sheet (the bigger the better or use more than one)
- Small bowl
- Ruler (not pictured)
- Scissors (not pictured)
*In order to not cause any issues with seed sprouting later, try to use non-bleached versions of these supplies
2. Prepare the flour paste
This may bring you back to grade school! Using the flour and water, mix up a flour paste about the consistency of school/white glue or PVA.
I ended up making mine a bit too watery, so you will want to err on the side of caution and make your paste thick. If it is too watery your paper will disintegrate (especially the toilet paper as that is what it is designed to do on contact with water).
If too thin add a bit more flour, if too thick add a few drops of water.
3. Prepare the toilet paper and paper towels
The paper towel mats are essentially that: tear off a sheet from your roll, place it on the baking sheet and you are done this step. In my case my paper towel roll has perforations for a half sheet so that’s what I used. I could also have used a full sheet.
For the toilet paper tear off a long strip (not too long otherwise it won’t fit on the baking sheet). Then fold it along the perforations and cut lengthwise (at right angles to the perforations) to obtain two narrower strips. Place on the baking sheet.
You might be wondering if you can use ordinary writing or computer paper. I wouldn’t recommend it as you may have issues with the paper not dissolving fast enough to allow the seeds to put down roots after you “plant” the tape/mats.
4. Apply the flour paste
Check your seed packets or seed catalogue for spacing recommendations for the seeds you are using. Place a ruler next to the strips and sheet as a guide.
Using a spoon or your finger, apply dabs of flour paste in the correct spacing. It doesn’t have to be perfect, a bit of variation is okay.
5. Apply the seeds
Before the flour paste has a chance to dry, add one seed per flour paste spot. It helps to put the seeds in a small container or you can pour them out into one palm and use the other hand to apply them.
As you can see, my daughter wanted to help! This is a great way to get kids involved in gardening. And she was more accurate at this than I was! I missed my aim with one or two seeds and had to pick them up again to get them in the right spot.
6. Let them dry
You are essentially done. Now time to let them dry on the baking sheet. Don’t be tempted to remove them yet as you might tear the mats, especially if you had a more watery paste like mine.
I left them to dry for about half a day. Overnight works too if you do these later in the day.
End Result: Homemade DIY Seed Tape & DIY Seed Mats!
The seeds should now be firmly attached to the tapes and mats and they are ready to be stored until the spring when we can “plant” them.
Roll up the tapes and fold up the mats carefully to avoid knocking off the seeds. I store all of my seeds in the fridge to keep them cool, so I just added these to the seed box on top.
Planting them in the garden
When these are ready to plant out in the spring, it’s simple to pop them into the garden.
All you’ll need to do is clear an area and lay them out. My daughter here is “planting” the sheet in her Children’s Garden Planter Box
Give them a bit of a soak with a watering can or hose with a fine spray.
Cover them with a thin layer of soil. As you can see kids have fun doing this!
And finally mark the area with a plant marker.
Be sure to keep the area well-watered until the seeds sprout.
Your turn now! Try making some seed tape and mats and let me know how it goes in the comments.