This year, my family is scaling back our growing space to 4×8 raised beds instead of traditional rows. Over the coming weeks I will be writing about the biointensive planting, intercropping, and vertical growing methods that we will use as well as sharing my plans and materials.
My husband picks on me because I read seed catalogs ad nauseam, over and over even though my seeds were selected and ordered a while ago. When everything is covered in snow I can’t help but drool over the photos of fresh produce!
I noticed that Johnny’s sells seed disks for herbs. The seeds are already spaced for you on paper, which you then simply pop into a pot, cover to the proper planting depth, and water. In my time gardening I haven’t had much success with herb growing from seed besides parsley, basil, and dill, and that’s why these initially caught my attention. As I’ve continued to finalize the layout for this year’s garden, I had the idea that maybe there were similar products for vegetable crops that get directly sown – carrots, radishes, etc. I have a 4-row seeder that I like for the ease of planting and spacing rows, especially for baby green mixes, but I still have to get down on my hands and knees when it’s time to thin the root crops (and besides, I hate feeling like I’ve wasted perfectly good seedlings during the thinning process). All I could find was seed tape, but this wasn’t what I had in mind.
I know you can make your own seed tape by putting dots of flour-water paste or water-soluble glue at the appropriate spacing intervals across a length of toilet paper, then placing seeds in each dot of paste. However, what I envisioned was a sheet with seeds spaced out in a hexagonal pattern, which is our preferred spacing method for root and greens. I first read about this technique in Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Farming on a Few Acres by Pam Dawling. In this method, plants are staggered in a way that, unlike a grid, allows each plant to have equal access to sunlight while also using space more efficiently than traditional rows. A quick Google search showed that other gardeners have had similar seed mat ideas before, but I couldn’t find any templates.
Based on common biointensive spacing recommendations I’ve made some hexagonal pattern templates. Using unfolded paper napkins or paper towels, which are just about a square foot in size, put dots of the paste or glue in the appropriate spots and then place your seeds. You’ll still have to thin your beets, but that’s a lot less work than thinning all of your roots and greens! I’m thinking this will make our succession planting pretty easy when the time comes, as I’ll just have to place another napkin down, cover as needed with compost, and move on.
Feel free to use these templates for your garden plan. Let me know if you have experience making or using seed mats or if you plan to give them a try this year!