Sow: seed tape

Tomorrow is President’s Day in the U.S. and Family Day in Canada. In Canada, it’s a statutory holiday so everyone will have a long weekend. In the U.S., the banks, some schools and apparently a few advertising agencies have the day off. Bruce does not (yes, he is bitter).

Tomorrow is also a big gardening day for the spring 2013 Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. Seeds are getting planted. Including so very tiny seeds.

The snow and shelling pea seeds are nice and big.  Mache and the various lettuce seeds can be scattered and still look nice and grow just fine.

But I want to have better carrot, radish and beet crops than I had in 2012. I just threw seeds in the ground and hoped for the best (ok, I did read the packets a bit, but honestly not well enough). Surprisingly, we actually had produce to pick and eat. But this go around, I really want to have TOO MANY carrots, radish and beets to eat. I want to have plenty to eat and give away.

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Beet type #1: soaking for 24 hours

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Beet type #2: soaking for 24 hours

 

So I tried something new this time: I made seed tape.

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Well, I made carrot seed tape, the radish seed tape will have to wait until tomorrow.

First thing I learned was that I should have started making all of seed tapes months ago when I first bought the seeds and was dreaming of the spring garden, not the day before I planned on planting. A lesson to apply for the 2014 spring garden I guess!

I had looked online to get advice on how to do it. Several sites recommended one-ply toilet paper. Since we use a fancier product, that wasn’t really feasible without going out to purchase special t-p for the garden. Seemed a little silly.

Then others recommended newspaper strips. One problem there: few people I know, including myself, actually read a paper newspaper these days. I thought about asking the guy in the red SUV that delivers the newspaper when we’re walking the 3G Network, but he really seems like he’s in a hurry in the morning for some reason. Then I remembered one of my coworkers gets the Sunday paper because he likes to hang out and drink coffee and get inky fingers. I got him to donate some newspaper to the cause (thanks, Wardo!).

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this stuff is newspaper. I’m going to save what I have in case it becomes more difficult to find next time i need to make seed tape.

 

I cut the newspaper up in thin-ish strips. Then I measured off 1 inch marks since carrot seeds need to be planted 1 inch apart.

After that, I made some homemade paste:

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1/4 cup regular old white flour and enough water to make a paste. I thought the pastry brush would be a good idea but it was not. neither was the spoon.

Basically planting carrot seeds (very small! a big pain to count! hopefully worth the effort!), requires 4 seeds every inch. Each row needs to be 6 inches apart, although apparently you can plant radish seeds between each row.

My first efforts used too much paste and once the newspaper strips dried, they curled up:

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don’t worry, I got better at making seed tape

The 3G Network was curious since I was sitting at the dining room table doing this and I’m guessing the flour/water paste smelled like human food. First, Guinness showed up, though not because he was hungry:

Guinness is feeling much better and insisted on a short walk while I was making seed tape

Guinness is feeling much better and insisted on a short walk while I was making seed tape. So we went.

Post-walk, George wanted in on the action:

George in his supervisory role

George in his supervisory role

He was mostly looking for handouts. When he realized that I wasn’t baking cookies or something equally delicious, he finally laid down. Boring!

Here you can see me working to perfect my tape making method. I really don’t know what I ever did without Sharpies. I really love them and they were a big help today marking 1 inch increments. Notice my paste applicator. Yes, a finger worked best for making a nice little blob of paste to hold four tiny seeds. No need for fancy tools.

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Applying glue

Did I mention how small the carrot seeds are? I think that is the #1 reason the fall carrot crop ended up so crappy. Because the seeds were so small I put more than 4 seeds every 1 inch. And because it makes me sad to thin out three carrot seedlings and only keep one, I had a low yield. Not this spring. I will be ruthless with my scissors and to make one beautiful carrot, I will eliminate three seedlings. I know better now.

tiny carrot seeds, tweezers to help move them around

tiny carrot seeds, tweezers to help move them around

using tweezers to get the optimum number of seeds/glue blob

using tweezers to get the optimum number of seeds/glue blob (I am about to reduce the number of seeds in the blob to 4)

So I have made a ton of carrot seed tape, probably more than I need for tomorrow. Supposedly I can roll it up or put it in a plastic bag and it will keep until fall planting.

I ran out of steam in the seed tape making after all those carrot seeds and moved on to helping Bruce with other things. So tomorrow morning first thing, I really need to do some seed tapes for the radish seeds. They are bigger so it shouldn’t be as difficult. Same goes for the soaked beet seeds.

It’s time consuming, but I hope it will be worth it because I really want to do all I can to make the crops successful. And make the raised beds look pretty this spring. Tomorrow, I plant!

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5 thoughts on “Sow: seed tape

  1. You have the patience of a saint. I would have had to tape my mouth shut to stop from screaming. Glad Guinness is feeling better. Enjoy your day off.

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  2. We planted from seed this year. We have tons of growth (only 17 days since we planted) and this reminds me to post new pics. Thing is, if you remember, my rottweiler got into the beds and ruined the perfect rows. I turned the dirt over, made new rows, planted new seeds, and now stuff is growing everywhere! In the rows, in the furrows, on the sides of rows… its chaos… i can see one row has both peas and carrots and some green onions. It’s gonna be fun trying to figure out what everything is until its big enough to actually recognize the plant.

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    • Oh, Ed! you need to take photos of your splendid chaos. Maybe you’ve actually discovered an optimal planting practice. I learned from my fall seed planting that I need to make a visual barrier of some kind to keep George from snoozing in the beds. Or digging.

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