Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again. ~ Gustav Mahler
I have to get a wiggle on.
We are more than halfway into spring. Summer, is coming. Quickly.
We’ve already had one 34 degree C day so far, the weather seems to be warming up and drying out fast.
So I need to get all my planting done as soon as possible. I need to give everyone time to grow enough to be in best fighting condition. They will need to ease into what is sure to be a long, hot summer. For numerous reasons, I am starting most of my planting later than I would have liked. I was hoping to be more organised and have most of my spring sowing done already. Alas, not so. Next year, I am reducing my volunteering commitments. Perhaps selfishly, I want more time in my garden.
I have already done some direct planting, with some mixed results. With the exception of the beans, the best performers by far are the ones that have been raised as seedlings. The lasagna style beds I have constructed have very friable soil, so we have been preparing seed tape to ensure the smaller seeds don’t just disappear into the depths of the layers, or get washed away.
The other thing I love about making your own seed tape, is that you can be much more economical with your seed. Thinning breaks my heart. It just seems wasteful and I hate pulling up perfectly good seedlings, just simply because they will grow up to be agoraphobic.
There are lots of techniques about on the web on how to make seed tape, here is how I do mine….
Homemade Seed Tape
You will need
- 1 roll of kitchen paper.
- small seeds
- non-soluble marker
- cornstarch glue.
- First, make the cornstarch glue.
- Put two tablespoons of cornstarch into a cup of cold water and whisk.
- Then microwave the container for 30 second intervals on High, whisking each time with a fork until you have a thick, glossy glue-like sauce. The mixture will be hot, so set aside to cool before use. The glue doesn’t keep for very long, a few days in the fridge at most.
- Cut lengths of the kitchen paper into narrow strips about 3cm wide.
- Select a strip and write the plant name on the kitchen paper with a non-soluble marker. At this point, you can also dot the recommended planting interval on the paper as a guide. For example, if planting carrots, space the dots approx 3cm apart.
- Paint the cooled cornstarch glue onto the spacing dots.
- Place two or three seeds on the spacing dots. We then dab them with the glue brush to ensure that they are actually stuck on.
- Then hang your seed tape up to dry in the sun.
- When thoroughly dry, you can roll it up to use within a few days, “fresh” is best.
- To use, place the seed tape in a prepared garden bed. Sprinkle with seed raising mix and water carefully but thoroughly. Don’t let the area dry out once planted.
The next job is to blend some seed raising mix to fill my homemade paper pots. When I ran out of my recycled brown paper, I experimented with the cheapest, single ply kitchen towel I could find. So far, they are holding together.
I have experimented a bit with seed raising mix in the past. From buying the pre-mixed bagged stuff to the just-add-water coir blocks, to a mix of sand and worm poo. Each one performed differently. But now I reckon I have the good stuff.
I have slightly modified the potting mix recipe that I
stole researched from Andrew Lucas over at Backyard Harvest.
Homemade Seed Raising Mix.
- 1 part river or propagation sand
- 1/2 part vermiculite
- 1/2 part fine coir fibre
- 1/2 part worm castings
- Handful of Blood and Bone.
Layer all ingredients into a seal-able bucket and mix thoroughly. Keep damp. I keep one of my little milk carton shovels in the bucket, it’s the perfect size for filling my homemade pots. I usually fumble with plastic punnets, either crushing the fragile roots or ripping the seedling out sans root. Either way, it’s usually bad news for the future of the seedling! I love my homemade paper pots. I write the plant name directly on the paper and stamp it with the date. When they are ready to plant, the whole thing goes in the soil, no transplant shock.
I have positioned all my seedlings on the roof of the chicken coop. It’s dark colour absorbs the heat of the day, acting like a heat mat to encourage my fledgling seeds out of their shell.
Time to head outside and begin!
What have you managed to plant so far this season?