How Will Your Garden Grow?

Alaska kids (and truly, kids in any cold-weather climate)! Whether we recognized it or not, spring has arrived, and it’s time to start thinking about garden season. Even if your yard still has snow (and ours does), you and your parents can still plant seeds in preparation for direct-sowing into your garden beds, boxes, or planters as soon as the soil warms up. 

I’ve been learning all sorts of interesting things during my home confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this morning I watched an Alaska Cooperative Extension Service video about creating something called “seed tape,” a process that helps make sure small seeds stay safe when you plant them in the dirt, thus giving them a better chance to germinate and sprout. 

It was easy, fun, and an excellent way to learn more about how seeds decide to grow, and what conditions are necessary for their survival. 

Want to learn? Follow the steps below:

Supplies: 

  • Seeds. Small seeds, like lettuces, basil, radishes, carrots, and other herbs work best, but some flower seeds work too. 
  • Newspaper. Newsprint decomposes well in soil. You can use toilet paper or paper towels, but really, right now, we don’t want to use up these valuable COVID-19 supplies, right? Just make sure to use plain newspaper, not colored (like from the comics). You don’t want dyes in your seeds or garden beds.
  • Scissors to cut newspaper.
  • Tweezers for placing small seeds in the newspaper. 
  • Small plate or white napkin so you can see the seeds. 
  • Marker or pen to label your tapes. 
  • Flour/water paste. You can also use cornstarch and water. The point is to use a human-grade/non-toxic glue concoction. 
  • Small paintbrush, or toothpick 

Procedure: 

  • Lay out newspaper, and cut in strips about two inches wide, and six inches long. I cut the entire length of a sheet of newspaper, then cut it in half. 

  • Pre-fold the strips lengthwise (the long way). 
  • Using the paintbrush or toothpick, place a dollup of glue along the length of one half of the newspaper, keeping about two inches apart (read your seed packet; if the instructions say to plant seeds four inches apart, halve it. Same for other instructions. I did two inches for all of them. We’ll see how that works out.) 
  • Carefully place two seeds in each dollup of paste. Two seeds increase our chances of germination in case one doesn’t take. Make sure the seeds are both in the glue. 

Fold the newspaper over, being careful not to displace the seeds. Pat carefully to make sure the newspaper is stuck on both sides. If not, add a little more glue. 

Make a label at one end of the seed tape so you remember what you will be planting. 

Carefully place the strip/seed tape in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant it. 

To Plant: 

  • Make sure the soil is warmed up enough (usually late May in Southcentral Alaska). 
  • Till (dig around) in the soil a bit to shake it loose after a long winter.
  • Make a shallow trench with your finger or a small shovel/large spoon.
  • Dampen the trench with a watering can.
  • Place the seed tape into the trench, and cover lightly with soil. 
  • Water well, but carefully. A watering can, with its “sprinkling” feature, offers a lighter touch than pouring water over in a big dump. 
  • Keep damp at all times. This means you’ll have to check on a daily basis, especially as the weather warms. 
  • Watch for tiny sprouts! 

Nature is awesome! For more gardening tips, visit the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service or one of my favorites, the Alaska Botanical Garden. 

~ EK 

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