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Seeds come in all shapes and sizes. While some are delightfully large and easy to plant, such as peas and sunflowers, planting up a row of radishes, lettuce, or onions often requires the dexterity and eyesight of a much younger person than I. That’s where seed tape can make a difference, helping you to easily lay down a row of your favorite crop without needing to worry about spacing or parsing out tiny seeds. Best of all, you can make your own. 

What is seed tape?

Biodegradable “tape,” seed tapes are really just a paper roll with seeds embedded at set intervals, usually the recommended spacing for a particular seed. You simply lay the tape down, and cover it per the depth recommended for that seed, and you’re all set. The non-toxic paper will degrade, and the seeds are protected from washing away and even maintain a little extra moisture because of the tape, which will help with germination. Seed tapes, like pelleted seeds, are one way seed purveyors have tried to make it easier to quickly seed quick crops and even flowers. The downside—and it isn’t a big one—is that seed tapes aren’t always an option on your favorite varieties, and the spacing is pre-set. So if you are a crowdscaper like myself, the seed tape spacing may be too generous for your taste. 

The most common seed tapes are for radishes, lettuces, onions, carrots, beets, and other tender greens. Most seed houses offer at least a few seed tape options, but this season, the best outlets I’ve found are Park Seed, Gurney’s, and Territorial Seed, which has expanded into seed mats for herbs and flowers. Mats work the same way, just covering a bigger space, and they allow you to thrown down an entire small patch of garden without having to overthink it. 

Seed tapes to grab for easy seeding:

How to make your own seed tape

If, like me, you’re a little too controlling to just go with the varieties of veggies that already come in seed tape or don’t like the spacing offered, you can make your own. I spend some portion of winter making seed tapes of my favorite succession crops, and then put a calendar item to lay a row down every two weeks. This means less time spent leaning over in the garden trying to see if a radish seed made it into the hole.

Grab some unbleached toilet paper—the cheaper, the better. Make a glue of flour and water: Mix them in equal parts and then adjust until you get a thick paste consistency.  Lay out the toilet paper. You’ll be folding it in half the long way, so on the bottom half, use a paintbrush to spread a bit of the glue on each spot you want a seed. Place the seed on the glue and fold the top half of the toilet paper down to seal the seed in, and let it dry. (If you have little kids at home, this is a fun activity to do together.)

Store the tape in a sealable plastic bag, and deploy when you need it.

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