How to Make Seed Tapes
Seed tapes make sowing tiny seeds much easier
Seed tapes can make sowing small seeds much easier and faster than sowing by hand, which can be especially important if you are super busy in the spring with garden chores. The tapes also allow you to easily sow in straight lines, if that is important to your garden plans. Another added bonus is that birds and critters won't be able to run away with your precious seeds as easily.
The seeds are basically "glued" onto pieces of thin paper products in a straight line. This is a great project to do with the kids or with your local garden group. You can make seed tapes during the winter, in front of the TV or make them as you need them. They only take a few hours to dry, overnight at the most.
There are three methods that I know of: honey/water mixture, Elmer's glue, or the cornstarch/water mixture, which is the method I'll be explaining today. You can make seed tapes for vegetables, herbs, perennials or annuals, just keep the seeds small so they easily stay glued to the strips (avoid large seeds like beans and peas).
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- small saucepan
- paper towels or toilet paper (inexpensive varieties)
- permanent marker
- food coloring (optional)
- squeeze bottle (optional)
- ruler (optional)
- cooling racks for drying
- zip lock bag for storage
I prefer to use paper towels for this project. It just seems easier to me, but if you want to use toilet paper, tear off about 12" long sections to make them easier to work with. If using paper towels, cut the towels into 5 or 6 strips.
Mix the cornstarch with the cold water in the sauce pan. Heat the mixture on the stove using medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly, about 5-7 minutes. It should end up being the consistency of pudding. You can add a drop of food coloring to the mixture to make it easier to see on the paper towel, if you like, but it's not necessary. I've added green to the mixture in my photo.
Once the mixture has thickened, allow it to cool completely before using. To make the mixture easier to work with, put it in a squeeze bottle, such as a cleaned out mustard bottle. If you don't have a bottle handy, do what I do and using a spoon to thinly apply the "glue" to the paper towel in a straight line.
Once the mixture has cooled, spread a thin layer of glue onto one half of a paper towel strip. Drop seeds onto the "glue" at the proper distance apart, based on the information on the seed packet for the seeds you are using. You can use a ruler to help you with the spacing, if you like. Fold the strip in half so that the seeds are covered by the other half of the paper strip.
Find a dry spot on the strip and write the name of the seed. You want to make sure you know exactly what you'll be planting later. Lay the wet strips on a cooling rack and allow to dry completely, then store them in a zip lock bag. Use the seed tapes within a few months of making them.
To use the tapes simply lay them in your garden on top of the soil, add a little soil on top of the strip so that they are the proper depth based on the depth indicated on the seed packet, then water well. The cornstarch will dissolve immediately and the paper towel will decompose pretty quickly.