I’ve heard the argument that you should never optimize your time in the garden and that you should, instead, savor every moment. A part of me really gets that. Slow down, enjoy the moment, and be present for each task. But then, there’s this other part of me that has a hundred others tasks to complete at the same time, and appreciates any little time saving short-cut I can come up with. Under the heading of time saving, might I present the making of seed tape.
So here’s the deal with seed tape in case you’re unfamiliar with the activity. Making seed tape requires flour, newspaper, and seeds. Pretty basic materials and typically ones you can find around your house. The flour is mixed with a bit of water to create a slurry, the newspaper is torn into strips, and the seeds are applied to the newspaper strips with the flour and water mixture. The tape is set to dry, and at later date is planted – newspaper, flour, and all. (For a quick video tutorial click here).
To some, this might sound like an extra step in the planting process – why in the name of saving time would you add a step!? Planting small, dirt colored seeds directly into your soil without seed tape can waste time, waste seed, kill your back, and lead to the ever-common procrastination regarding succession planting. Let me break this down.
When you make seed tape you place a ruler on a strip of newspaper, place a dot of “glue” at the thinned distance (not the planting distance), drop the seeds on the glue and your done. I can crank out about eight strips of seed tape in about five minutes. I can also do this activity sitting in a comfortable chair while taking a break and watching a movie. Which leads me to my next point…
If you’re like me, perhaps you were not as kind to your back as maybe you should have been. Bending over my raised beds (even my ultra-high raised beds) my back starts to hurt within minutes. I struggle to muster the patience to get the seeds planted. And then, ironically, the process is so uncomfortable I’m overcome by an irresistible urge to plant out my entire garden in a single shot. Which brings me to my next point…
Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a deal with yourself to succession plant your garden, but you find it difficult to get back out to the garden, seed packets and trowel in hand, once a week to keep planting rows. Enter seed tape. Once a week, heading out to the raised bed to draw a quick line in my soil with a trowel, laying down the seed tape, and covering the soil is something I can do. The seed tape method cuts my succession planting down from about 30 minutes per session (get out seeds, open packets, count out seeds, dig planting trench, drop in seeds, cover with soil, and seal seed packet) to about five minutes per session (grab seed tape, dig trench, lay down tape, cover with soil). Much better.
Each year I make-up a few different types of seed tape – usually plants that are difficult to plant directly in soil (think carrots, not beans). This year I’m making tape for radishes, carrots, salsify, beets (I know, not small, but it’s just easier for me), and spinach. I start other cool season vegetables in trays (lettuce, kohlrabi, kale, Swiss chard) but those vegetables could just as easily be planted with seed tape.
If you haven’t tried seed tape give it a try – it’s easy, easy on your back, saves time, saves seed and actually encourages the succession planting you know you should be doing.