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Home Made Seed Tapes

I’ve had a couple of interesting questions come in from newsletter subscriber Sheila in New Zealand about home made seed tapes and growing on the other side of the planet.

Her first question was if I had backdated copies of the newsletter available since the months are basically reversed in the southern hemisphere.

Since the newsletters are covering things like ‘new on the site’ and issues of the day, they’re really not that valuable six months on. However, if you’re looking for growing tips and help on a monthly basis then the Month by Month Growing Guide is the place to visit. Better still, buy a copy of my book! (Hey – I’ve got to try.)

Home Made Seed Tapes

Her next question was this:

What is new here (in New Zealand) this spring is seed on tapes, already spaced apart so less thinning later. They cost us about $1 per metre or 50 pence to you.

Have you found a way seed tapes can be “home made”?  Appears to be a simple idea but would toilet paper or kitchen paper work?  I have been told the bleach in them could affect the seeds.

Cut the paper into 1 inch strips.  Mist with water, place seeds on paper and mist again before laying 2nd paper on top. Makes planting much easier on both knees and hands.  What do you think? Sheila

Seed tapes have been around in the UK and Europe for a few years now and I can see the benefit in ease of use, but they are a lot more expensive than just buying a packet of seeds. Especially on a cost per seed basis.

I’ve had tomato seeds sent to me in the past that were stuck onto ordinary paper with Sellotape (clear adhesive tape) and I sowed these with the sticky tape still on and they came up fine. The paper just rotted away. I’ve also used damp kitchen paper when chitting seeds and not had any problem so my conclusion is that any residual bleach that may be left in the paper from the manufacturing process is not going to make a difference.

There are a couple of problems I can foresee with making your own seed tape though. I’ve never used seed tapes myself but I’m sure the seed merchants will have researched and overcome them.

First, we need a medium that is strong enough to hold together yet not stop the seeds from growing. I think a long strip of 1″ wide toilet roll paper is going to be a bit weak and difficult to handle.

The next problem is germination. The idea of the seed tape is to sow at the correct spacing and avoid thinning out and thereby wasting seeds. This certainly appeals to my sense of frugality.

However not all the seeds in a packet will germinate. There’s all sorts of factors that affect germination rates, storage and age of the seed being the most obvious along with the species. Plants producing huge amounts of seeds often have lower germination rates than those just producing a few.

So if we space our seeds perfectly and only 70% actually germinate, we’re going to end up with gaps in the row.

I don’t really find sowing and thinning a chore, in fact the carrot thinnings are a definite bonus so I don’t think I’ll be buying seed tape and making my own seems like more work than doing it the traditional way.

One method of sowing seeds thinly I tried many years ago was to mix the seeds with non-fungicidal wallpaper paste and use an icing bag to sow them. It did work but was more fuss than hand sowing and you still had to thin.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
4 comments on “Home Made Seed Tapes
  1. Mick Webster says:

    I have been saving tomato seed on kitchen roll for years. It is easy to space seeds, and the size of an average kitchen roll doubled just fits a seed half-tray,plenty for my purposes. Any failures, (and there doesn’t seem to be many), are not a problem, because the seedlings will be potted on.

  2. Liz Fordham says:

    This year I used up some out of date Parsnip seeds which I have read are sometimes difficult to grow (especially if out of date). I chitted some on damp kitchen paper and sowed some straight into my plot. I then planted the chitted ones, paper and all, they grew well and we are eating them now. The unchitted? Not one seedling! Next year I will do the same and hopefully get the same results.

  3. Malcolm Wass says:

    Carrots/parsnip planting
    Have tried sticking carrot seed onto old newspaper strips using flour paste before planting, not a great success.Perhaps the paper ink interfered with the germination.Will repeat the exercise using kitch role paper.

    Some of my fellow allotment gardners plant their parsnip seeds into cardboard tubes (empty toilet roll holders ). When seeds have germinated , tubes then planted directly into the prepared site. A much quicker to germinate parsnip , is to scatter seed onto several sheets of wet kitchen roll in a plastic tray. Place on windowsill, germination very quick.With the aid of tweezers the seedlings are carefully tranplanted into suitable containers before finally planting outside

  4. david says:

    As type two diabetes has started to take its toll, handling anything smaller than a pea is difficult as I now have desensitized fingers.

    I’ve been researching this seed tape idea for a few years .

    What I have come up with is similar to seed tapes but instead of tapes just use a 1/2 inch squares of toilet tissue, big 6 inch plastic tweezers and some simple glue made from rice flour or plain flour. You only make enough for the job in hand. Don’t try to store it in the fridge lest bacteria get going in it.

    Make it to a batter thickness mix then use a pencil tip to put a workable blob of the thick mix on one square of toilet tissue and sandwich a seed between two bits. Let it dry over night, carry out to site of planting in a lidded plastic box. Take the tweezers with you.

    It is all done in the warmth & comfort of inside the home and whilst sat down (I have several decaying spinal discs as well) l plant the seed the next day. It is done under the bright lights in the kitchen so I can see what I’m doing as the diabetes has also reduced my sight along with old age.

    What is different is that I have used a small aquarium pump sealed inside a small sealable plastic sandwich box to make a vacuum pump .

    The outlet of the air pump is taken out a matching hole in the wall of the plastic box and a fish tank air tube is glued in place to seal it. I used Evostick on both sides of the plastic where it passes through. You’ll also need to do the same for the power lead.

    To make the seed suction tube I’ve used a metre length of new air tube and similarly glued it in the side of the plastic box as the inlet tube.

    At the free end I have used an empty ball pen refill tube complete with the ball point. This is then modified by carefully grinding off the ball and leaving a square clean edge in the shank of the metal just above where the ball was.

    The refill is then slid into a small block of plastic that is drilled to size for a good fit then glued in this hole so that the block is about mid way along the refill to make the seed suckers body and ” switch ” ( I used one of those plastic screw up plastic jointing blocks that you get from B&Q etc to butt join mdf/chipboard ) Now the final step using one of the screw holes is to drill a 5 mm hole down into the pen refill area so you just cut through the upper wall.

    Now all you do is clip the lid on the box to get it air tight, turn on the pump and it will start to draw a vacuum through the seed sucker. Put your thumb or finger over the 5 mm hole and the vacuum is felt at the metal tip of the refill. Suck up a seed, put it where you want it by releasing the thumb finger and breaking the vacuum.

    Have the seeds in a small square plastic container and tip the seeds into one corner ..that way you usually get a seed every hit rather than trying to use shaky hands chasing seeds around a plate or large flat area.

    Years ago we used to make such seed suckers out of glass and rubber tubes, connected them to a water tap , to let the water passing the tube create the vacuum but because most people are on water meters nowadays it’s not a sensible method to pursue.

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