Have you ever tried to make a tidy row of seeds with gardening gloves on? Or with an –um– short, unskilled helper? So I’m not really that OCD to make seed tape, am I?
Anyway, if you like to keep track of what you’re planting where, and you want to encourage your kids to help you, making seed tape in advance is a great way to get started on your garden even when days are still short and cold.
Seed tape works best for small seeds that disappear in a heartbeat, like carrot, celery, kale, lettuce, etc. Larger seeds like sunflower, squash, or peas are easier to keep track of and kids have an easier time holding them, so seed tape doesn’t do much for you.
Even if you don’t have munchkins, it’s really helpful for succession planting.
That’s the savvy gardener’s trick of planting similar quantities of something a few weeks apart, so that you have a gradual, successive harvest rather than an all-at-once-Oh-My-God-what-do-I-do-with-twenty-pounds-of-kale-in-one-week harvest.
We used this activity to accomplish something else, too. Miss H’s kindergarten class was celebrating 100 days of school by presenting collections of 100 items. We reached 100 with just six or 8 tapes, counting carrot seeds by twos. The strips had 12-16 seeds each, depending on spacing.
Miss H also labeled the strips, copying the names from the seed packets (“chives”=easy, “Lacinto Kale”=not so easy) and took all of the photos you see here, except the last one. In her Queen Maiden costume. Kids will vary widely in their ability to focus on an activity like this, so your mileage may vary.
1. Have your small helpers cut a newspaper (or other easily compostable paper, like grocery bags or something) into 1.5-2″ wide strips.
I accordion folded the newspaper first, which made it easier for Miss H to make straighter cuts. Happily, it really doesn’t matter if the cuts are that precise, and cutting paper to ribbons is so much fun!
2. Make a solution of 1 Tbsp Cornstarch in 1 Cup of water. Mix it well, no lumps! Then heat on the stove until just bubbling.
3. Take it off the heat and put it either in a little dish or a plastic squeeze bottle. Squeeze bottle is ideal for adults, but I didn’t have one, so I used a Q-tip. Q-tips are probably ideal for tiny hands that don’t squeeze so reliably, or if you have several assistants.
4. Read the back of the seed packet for spacing instructions, but many of these small seed plants are going to want to be 2-3″ apart before thinning. One seed packet makes a ton of tape, and not every seed will germinate, so use the spacing recommended *before* thinning. I also found it easier to pre-crease the paper down the center before I started with the cornstarch.
5. Lay the tape out horizontally on the wax paper in front of you. Dip your Q-tip in the cornstarch and make a gooey line down the center of the lower half of the tape, or use the squeeze bottle to make dots with the right spacing. I found it faster to make a line and approximate the spacing, but for small assistants you could make the dots for them and they could match the seeds to the dots.
6. Put 2-3 seeds per dot.
7. Fold the top half of the tape down over the bottom half, to “glue” the seeds into the center of the tape.
8. Label the tape with the type of seeds.
9. Store them in a ziploc bag or sealed glass jar in the fridge. I stuck the packets in the bags as well, so I could remember some of the later-season instructions. Since I’m going to be comparing different varieties in my garden, I will probably use the packets to label rows later as well.
10. Let your assistants plant a few tapes each week for a successive harvest all summer long!