Seed mats are pieces of fabric or paper with seeds embedded in them to make the seeds easier to plant. They are similar in concept to seed tapes, but are generally wider and are designed to cover a larger area. There are many reasons why gardeners may choose to use seed mats. They can be used for almost any type of seed: vegetables, flowers, and even turf and lawn. You can buy them ready-made or make your own.
The Benefits of Seed Mats
The biggest benefit to seed mats is time savings. They allow you to lay down a bed of seeds very quickly. They are especially effective for tiny seeds like lettuce or carrots that are a pain to sow. Using seed mats, a gardener can plant a 100-square-foot area in about an hour. Sure, if you make them yourself you do have to invest time preparing them, but that is time spent comfortably seated indoors. Seed mats also limit seeds being wasted due to them being planted too close together or at the wrong depth. A peripheral benefit that can be overlooked is their moderate weed control ability. The mats can help keep some weeds at bay because they temporarily (until they biodegrade) cover the ground and smother any weed seeds trying to emerge.
Making Your Own Seed Mats
Purchased seed mats come in many varieties. They are usually bought by the roll or sheet in specific square-inch or square-foot sizes. However, seed choices are limited and they are generally more expensive than making your own.
Homemade seed mats provide you with unlimited options. You can buy or save the seeds of your choice and then set them out on mats at your leisure. They are usually made using paper towels as the base. Any lightweight paper that easily disintegrates in water will do — just avoid colored ink or glossy paper which could have toxins in it. First, use a pencil to mark the location of the seeds on the paper, according to the distance between seeds indicated on the seed packet. Next, make your glue by mixing flour and water into a thick paste and put a dab of glue on each mark. Finally, place 1-3 seeds (just one for larger seeds, several for tiny seeds) on each dab of glue and wait for it to dry thoroughly. Once dry, label the paper, mark which side should align with the front of the planting bed, roll it up and then store it until ready for planting.
Seed Choices and Placement
When selecting several seeds to share the same mat, be sure to choose plants that have relatively similar germination and growth rates. Otherwise, the faster-growing plant may smother out the others. If you select flowers of varying heights, be sure to plant the shortest ones in the front of the bed and taller ones in the back. Consider whether you wish for your plants to appear in straight rows or be staggered for a more natural appearance.
How to Use a Seed Mat
Using a prepared seed mat is easy. Simply rake the earth and pull aside some soil or have some compost ready. Lay the mat out in the orientation you’d like, then cover with the recommended amount of soil or compost for the seeds on the mat (usually 1/4 inch or so). Water lightly and then continue to water daily as you would any fresh-planted seeds.
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