I recently wrote a step-by-step guide on How to Make Seed Tape – a task that can be done in the depths of winter, saving you much needed time when the gardening season really takes off and you have a mountain of chores to do.
When you are ready to sow, it’s a simple process – in a nutshell, you lay down your seed tape using the proper row spacing, cover with soil and then water. Over the years, however, I’ve found that a few simple tips and tricks can go a long way in ensuring that your seed tape adventure is a success.
Choose a Relatively Windless Day
It goes without saying that you should not be out there sowing seed tape when it’s raining, but wind is another consideration. On a windy day, keeping the tape from shifting or flying away as you are laying it on the bed can become incredibly frustrating unless you are in a sheltered spot. And since the point of using seed tape is to make sowing quicker & easier, chasing airborne strips of toilet paper sort of defeats the purpose – the neighbours may be amused, but you probably won’t be 😉
Water the Bed Ahead of Time
Prolonged watering after you sow can end up damaging the seed tape or displacing the soil covering the seeds so, unless the bed has already been moistened by Mother Nature, it’s a good idea to give it a good watering before you sow. I prefer to water several hours ahead of time as this will ensure that the bed is moist, but not sopping wet. Once the seed tape is sown, a light misting is usually enough to settle the top layer of soil.
Separate the Varieties
If you are sowing different varieties, consider placing the tape for each variety into a separate container, which will make it easier to keep track of. I find that 500 ml (2 cup) containers with lids work well for this as they are roomy enough that you can remove one strip of seed tape at a time without it getting tangled with the others and potentially tearing. While I’m at it, I’ll create the variety label and tuck that into the container as well – this way I won’t forget to mark the row.
Prepare the Topping Soil, if needed
If the seeds need to be sown ¼” deep or more, I’ll simply make a trench the appropriate depth, lay down the seed tape, then fill in with soil. If the seed only needs a light covering of soil, such as with carrots, I’ll place seed tape directly on the soil surface and then sprinkle soil over top. The soil in my garden is fairly dense and heavy so I prepare a lighter mixture by combining equal parts seed starting mix and garden soil. The seed starting mix on its own dries out too quickly, but together with the garden soil, it’s the perfect blend – lightweight with just enough bulk to retain moisture more effectively. If your soil is sandy, I would go the other way and add potting soil or compost to increase water retention.
Position the Seed Tape
Position the seed tape in the bed, with seeds facing up, using the desired spacing between rows. If using seed mats, the row spacing is already done so all you need to worry about is the spacing between the mats.
Label, Label, Label
Before you cover up that tape, make sure to label your rows or squares. You may think you’ll remember where you sowed everything, but believe me, you won’t. In a few days you’ll be standing there wondering whether those bits of green coming up are the radishes or the turnips. Yes, I’ve been there…more than once.
Water the Bed
After covering the seed tape with soil, use a gentle or mist spray setting when watering the bed to avoid damaging or displacing the seed tape. This is where watering the bed ahead of time pays off – it should only take a minute or two to moisten & settle the soil topping the seeds.
And Keep Watering
Water the bed at least twice per day to keep that top layer of soil from drying out. The hotter it is, the more often you’ll have to water.
Keep up the daily watering until most of the seeds have germinated. At this point, the roots will be working their way down into the soil, so keeping the soil surface moist is not as much of a concern & you should cut back to a regular watering schedule (watering less often, but deeply).
That’s all there is to it. These simple tips should put you well on the road to a fun and fruitful (or vegful??) seed tape adventure.