As I write this, it's raining outside - again. The ground is sodden down toward the compost area. The chook run squelches when I walk on it, but there isn't really anything the girls can dig up in the garden so I've left their gate open and they can free-range and hang out in less river-like climes. In fact, they've been having a good go in one of the vege beds which was empty, getting the soil nice and loose for sowing carrots.
And speaking of sowing carrots, I've just undertaken a wee project and discovered that even if it's still raining on the weekend, I can still do some gardening in my kitchen.
I've been making seed tapes. Some seeds are really small and fiddly to sow into soil. Carrots are a good example of this. Carrots, because they are root crops, should be sown directly into the soil so that the growing root is not disturbed by transplanting. They should have 5cm-10cm between each carrot, depending on the variety you're planting, so if you have three seeds in less than that space, you need to thin them. Sounds easy, but in reality, once carrots get going it can be hard to identify underneath all that glorious foliage just where the plant is. The worst pest to attack carrots is the carrot fly maggot, and they are attracted to carrots when they smell damage to the foliage, which thinning inevitably causes. Carrot fly maggots head underground and drill brown ugly tunnels into your beautiful carrots. So it's not only fiddly to thin carrots, it can jeopardise your crop. This means that getting the distance between your seeds right is important. And it can be hard when you're out in the elements to get it right.
Seed tapes make this easier and they're easy to make. All you need are these things:
- Fine paint brush
- Toilet paper or newspaper
- Non toxic glue - I used flour mixed with water
I laid out my paper, and measured out the distance I needed between each seed. Then I dabbed glue on each spot and carefully dropped a seed onto it. I'll leave them to dry overnight and tuck them away into a plastic tub until I'm ready to sow. When the time comes, I'll sift through the soil to get rid of any chunks of rock or lumps of soil, rake it to make it level, sprinkle a little seed raising mix, level it off, lay the tapes down, and cover them with more seed raising mix. I'll spray them with water, then lay damp teatowels over the site to ensure they're evenly moist and stay moist for the three weeks they need to germinate. When the seed leaves appear under the teatowels, I'll whip them off and keep spraying the site until the plants are strong enough for me to use my watering can.
I'm going to attempt something I've never done before - successive sowing. I've got two tapes of each of the varieties I'm dowing; early Chantenay and Egmont gold. I'm going to sow one tape of each to start, then a month later, sow the second one. My Trusty Assistant was given a packet of seed tapes with Manchester table carrots in them, so I might try all three to see how they compare. Here's hoping all the seeds germinate and we are in carrots all summer long. I might even try to grow them all year round, but don't hold me to that ...
Have you used seed tapes before? How successful were they?
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