Since spring arrived so late this year, I tried to plan ahead as much as I could so planting the garden could be completed quickly once the snow melted and the soil warmed. I planted some extra spring seedlings under lights. That way they could still grow on schedule even though they were not growing in the garden.
Another task I completed while the snow was still covering the garden was to make up some seed mats (or seed tapes) so when the garden beds are ready, sowing the will be fast.
The inspiration for making seed mats came from Granny at Annie’s Kitchen Garden. I have used seed mats for sowing carrots, lettuce, and spinach with good results over the years. This year, I prepared seed mats for carrots, lettuce and succession plantings of spinach.
Seed mats are helpful for planting tiny seeds, such as lettuce and carrots that are hard to sow one at a time. Instead of scattering seeds then thinning later, creating seed mats allows you to space out the seeds according to the suggested spacing on the back of the seed package or Square Foot Garden spacing recommendations.
Seed mats made with napkins work particularly well for the Square Foot Gardens because one napkin fits into one square. Even if you garden in rows, strips of napkins or even bathroom tissue can be used to make your seed tape.
How to Make the Seed Mats:
- 12 x 12 inch cardboard square
- Thin napkins
- Flour and enough water to make a paste
Make a Template:
Check the back of the seed package for the recommended seed spacing or refer to the Square Foot Garden’s guidelines. This example is for carrots which are 3-inches or 16 per square foot.
Measure 1.5 inches (half of 3) in from the upper left corner, then measure 3-inches across and mark along your cardboard. Do the same along the other edges and then draw your lines. Place a dot with your marker where the lines intersect. There are 3-inches between each dot.
Make Your Seed Mat:
- Mix the flour and water together to make a paste. It should coat a toothpick without dripping off.
- Open up the napkin and layer it on your template.
- Using the dots as a guide, dab a drop of the paste onto the napkin with your toothpick.
- Use tweezers to place two seeds into each dab of paste.
- Write the name of the variety on each mat and allow it to dry completely.
Once the seed mats are dry, they can be folded up and stored in a zipper bag until ready to plant. When planting time comes, it is easy to place the seed mats in the beds, cover with soil, and water.
At first it seems like extra work to make the seeds mats compared to sowing the seeds directly in the garden. But having the seed mats prepared ahead of time to plant when the soil is ready will save some time. I find it easier to make seed mats at my leisure inside rather than hovering over a garden bed trying to space out tiny seeds evenly.
Granny says: “…it takes a lot less time to make the mats than it does to plant a row of seeds and then have to thin out half of them. And the wind doesn’t carry my seed away when I’m sitting in my kitchen!”
Thanks Granny for the original inspiration for using homemade seed mats. I hope sharing your seed mat method encourages others to give it a try.
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