Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Seed Mats - Radishes

seed mats
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to create my own seed mats after seeing a tutorial given by Gran at Annie's Kitchen Garden. I have to admit, the concept was completely new to me and I was very excited to give it a try. If you've ever seen photos of Eliot Coleman's Four Season Farm, you'd be amazed at the level of accuracy and neatness that can be accomplished by a 6-row seeder (which can by purchased at Johnny's at a hefty price). I wanted to be able to duplicate this on a much smaller scale in my home garden.

I had listed the many potential benefits of using seed mats that I could come up with in an earlier post. For instance, I could see how they would be useful for small seeds and crops that do not require a large amount of space in which to grow. From my own experience, I've found certain seeds to be particularly tedious to handle and sow into neat rows (wild arugula seed, for example, is the size of a grain of sugar). And having to thin carrot seedlings is a chore that my back would gladly live without. Finally, as I'm just about to harvest some of my Hakurei turnips, I've noticed that growth has been pretty irregular due to the fact that the spacing between each plant is not consistent, a problem I'm hoping to solve with these mats.

radish seed mats3
I decided to grow a quick crop of radishes (30 days to maturity) using this method. To construct the seed mat, I used fast food chain style napkins that measured 12" x 12" when unfolded. On each napkin, I was able to fit 24 radish seeds spaced 2 inches apart. Since my raised beds measured 6 feet in length, I was able to align comfortably about 5 and a half mats down one strip.

I amended the soil in my bed and leveled it using a garden rake before positioning the mats seed side up. I then covered the mats with about a half inch of compost and watered well. It was as easy as that.

radish seeds mats
One week later, about 90% of my radishes germinated and sprouted within a 24 hour period. They look impeccably spaced and their growth appears very consistent. I'm extremely happy with the results. This past weekend, I sowed some mache, minutina and Tango lettuce using the same method. Hopefully they will do just as well.


  1. What neat little rows of radishes! Mama always said that radishes would make a gardener, because they're nearly always a success, which is so encouraging.

  2. Wow Thomas, Your garden is doing GREAT. I know you are thrilled to see those seeds pop up!!!! New growth everywhere---isn't that wonderful???


  3. Hi Thomas,
    Thank you for making me aware of this in one of your earlier articles.

    I made my first seed mats on the weekend and am now "patiently" waiting to see how well they work.


  4. I'm thinking about tying those out in the spring for carrots. I'll probably do a side by side comparison to see how they do. It would be nice to be able to space the carrots at a table inside and not outside bending over the bed.

  5. You are a very "neat" gardener - I am a "messy" one.
    I guess that putting the seeds on the napkins is easier because you can see them better for spacing? Is that right?

    I enjoy weeding and thinning my carrots so I doubt that I would ever take the time to do this, but it is very interesting. And your garden does look "perfect"!

  6. Ah, Granny sure is a clever and resourceful one. Although, I, like millhill, don't mind a little thinning every now and again, I'll admit it is a very neat and thorough way of sowing, with the added benefit of not wasting seed.

  7. millhill said:
    "You are a very "neat" gardener - I am a "messy" one.
    I guess that putting the seeds on the napkins..."

    He certainly is a VERY neat gardener. How many other gardeners provide their seeds with napkins when they sow them?

  8. Tim - haha...if only my neatness could extend beyond the garden into my sock drawer.

    Millhill - at the end of the day, seeds mats save you a lot of sowing time and gives you perfect spacing. It would take you hours to do this in the garden, bent over with seeds in hand. I'm also noticing that germination is better with smaller seeds possibly because the soil mat regulates sowing depth. If you have air pockets or very loose soil, tiny seeds may disappear into the dark abyss when you water your bed after sowing.