One of the things I’ve noticed when planning and planting for Fall crops is how to manage when and how to sow the tiny seeds like carrots and radishes for a continual harvest. Direct sowing, or simply planing the seeds into the soil, can take time to thin out and space seedlings at the right time. I’ll plant the seeds, wait a week or three, and then I’m back out in the garden making sure my carrots are happy. The timing of crops can also take some planning as some crops, radishes for example, will pop up at different times as my carrots.
This little project helps me to thin out the seeds before I even plant them in the ground, and allows an easier rotation for a continual harvest. Who doesn’t like a steady supply of carrots and radishes for the fall?
Seed tapes were my answer to this. Seed tapes are basically strips of paper with seeds “glued” into them. You simply line out the tape in rows and cover with the right amount of soil. Rinse (literally) and repeat. You can get seed tapes for almost any vegetable that you want to plant, but the drawback is that they can be expensive.
Let me give you an example:
Carrots should be sown about 3 inches apart from each other. A typical carrot seed tape is 15 feet long. That means that you’ll get about 60 carrots to the tape (don’t worry, I’ll do the math for you. I have a helmet.) That seed tape can cost anywhere from 3-5 dollars. You can get a packet of 1500 seeds for about the same price. Sixty carrots for 4 bucks vs, well, alot more than 60 carrots for the same price. So why not make our own seed tapes?
Here’s how you do it.
- Corn starch or flour.
- Paper towels or bathroom tissue (Organic or biodegradebale is best, but regular grade is fine). You can also use gauze, newspaper (black and white, no color), or anything else that a seed will pop through.
- Paintbrush, or cotton swab to dab the glue.
I’ve found bathroom tissue is easier as a roll is about 3 inches across already. This means you can make 2 seed rows with one roll without cutting anything; a carrot/radish roll for example.
First, take 1/4 cup corn starch to 1/2 cup water and whisk it together over medium heat until the mix turns slightly translucent. Make sure there aren’t any clumps.
An alternate method is to use flour to make your paste. Simply mix 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water into a paste. No cooking required. I’ve found that it doesn’t hold quite as well as the starch, but you don’t have to heat anything so clean up is easier and it takes a bit less time. The kids love to get their hands gooey, too!
Wait for the corn starch glue to cool a bit so you don’t burn yourself or your seeds, and put a dab on the edges at the right spacing for your plant. For carrots, you’ll be placing the seeds every 3 inches, and about 1/2 inch in from the edge of the paper. Radishes should be spaced at 2 inches from each other. (More spacing info for herbs and vegetables at the bottom). Put a seed or two on each dab, place another piece of tissue or paper on top until it soaks through, then let dry.
After it’s dry, you can even roll up your tape on a paper towel or bathroom tissue to make easy to store “seed rolls.”
In one “seed roll” you can put carrots on one side, and radishes on the other. Your radishes will pop up about half the time as the carrots, so when the radishes come up, it’s time to put another roll in the soil right next to it.
Make sure you label your tapes! Store them in an airtight container in a cool dry place. Be sure they’re completely dry before rolling and storing.
When you’re ready to plant, simply unroll your tape and cover with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil. Keep watered per the instructions on the seed packets.
You now have perfectly spaced rows!
You can also use newspaper cut into the right sizes. Thicker paper can be a bit more sturdy and you can cut the paper into 1 inch strips at any length. Anything will do that a seed can pop through! (Hey, that rhymed).
If you like square foot gardening, you can take a paper towel and set up your seeds that way. Each “seed square” is ready to just put in the ground!
You may have to thin a bit, but I’ve never had much of a problem.
So, by making our own seed tapes, we can have harvests for the entire fall for the cost of one seed packet and the time to make the tapes, rolls or squares. It’s easier to rotate and blend other companion crops, space your seeds, avoid thinning, design your garden just the way you want, and is a fun project all the while. Use your imagination and you can come up with all kinds of designs. How about writing your name in marigolds?
Seed Spacing for Common Herbs, and Vegetables
Space your seeds on the seed tape according to the seed packet info.
- Basil: 4 inches
- Chives: 6 inches
- Cilantro: 6 inches
- Dill: 12 inches
- Mint: 12 inches
- Oregano: 6 inches
- Parsley: 6 inches
- Sage: 12 inches
- Thyme: 8 inches
Vegetables: Here’s a few vegetables that have small seeds.
- Arugula: 4 inches
- Asian greens (bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna): 4 inches
- Beets: 3 inches
- Carrots: 3 inches
- Collards: 6 inches
- Kale: 6 inches
- Lettuce: 6 inches
- Mustard greens: 6 inches
- Radishes: 2 inches
- Rapini: 6 inches
- Spinach: 4 inches
- Swiss chard: 6 inches