Spacing: Paper Towel
Roll of thin,
white-only (no inks) paper towels about 1 foot square
(Peel two-ply paper
apart and use just one layer so it's really thin)
Seedlings | Glue | Markers | Masking tape | Your garden plan
Compost | Sprinkling
can or hose with a mister
It's often hard for young children to
space seeds and seedlings properly when they are so excited to be out in the
garden. So it's a good idea to help them organize their thinking by giving them
each a paper towel to use as a planting guide.
By the time you sow seeds, you should
have a garden plan on paper. Among other considerations, you will want to have
tall plants in back and short plants in front. But even with a solid garden
design, when kids get their hands on seeds and seedlings, you can have chaos if
you don't have a way for them to stay organized and on task on planting day.
That's why you might want to use a
homemade "seed mat." It should make planting easier and prevent the need for
very much thinning of excess sprouts.
If you have a fairly large garden, you
might want to do this project on the floor, in a hallway or multipurpose room.
Each 12" square paper towel represents
a square foot of garden space. This activity is a good way to teach kids about
fractions, since they will be working with divisions of each square-foot paper
towel to plan for the right amount of space in which to plant their seeds.
So if you are sowing sunflower seeds
that need to be 6" apart, and you want to cover four feet by three feet of
garden space with sunflowers, pull out three rows of four paper towel squares
each, for a total of 12 square feet.
Each student can use a marker to write
his or her name and the name of the plant or plants that will be growing on
each paper towel square or section.
Consult the seed packet to see how
many inches away from other plants each one should be planted.
Remember that each paper towel is 12"
If the seeds have to be planted six
inches apart from one another, the student should fold the paper towel in half.
Then mark the center of one half as the spot where one seed can be planted. Mark
the center of the other half as the spot where the second seed can be planted.
If the seeds can be four inches apart,
the student should fold the towel into fourths. Mark the center of each section
as the place for the seed to go.
If the seeds can be planted as close
together as three inches apart, then on a 12" paper towel the student can fold
it into thirds both ways, forming nine sections, like a tic-tac-toe board.
If, however, the seed is going to
produce a large plant that has to be planted a foot apart from other plants,
the student should put the seed right in the middle of the paper towel.
And if the seed will produce a REALLY
big plant that spread out a lot, such as a squash plant, the student might have
to have a total of four paper towels laid in a large square, taped together
with paper masking tape, except not having any tape in the center of the four
squares, since that's where the seed will go. The student can mark the center
point as the spot where the seed goes, and glue it in place.
The students should mark with a marker
where on the paper towel each seed is going to go.
Since it is fairly common that one or
more seeds doesn't germinate (GERM ih nate, which means sprout and grow), ask
the gardeners to place an extra seed or two in each section of the towel.
Then, if they all come up, the student
can just go back with a pair of scissors, and cut away the extra, unwanted
plants. This is called "thinning." You have to do it if you want the plant to
have the right amount of air and sunlight to grow properly.
Once they have their seeds in place, the
students should glue the seeds onto the paper towel. Make sure the paper is
fairly thin; if it is two-ply, carefully pull one layer away before you glue.
You can also make a paste of flour or
cornstarch and water, put it in an empty squeeze bottle such as an empty
ketchup bottle, and squeeze the paste where the seeds can go, then stick them
into the paste.
Let dry. You can stack these and store
them for quite a while until it's time to plant, or plant that same day.
If the students are planting seedlings
instead of seeds, they can take scissors out to the garden and cut a hole in
the paper towel large enough for the plant and its roots to go through. The
same method will work for onion starts and seed potato chunks. (Note: this
method won't work for planting corn, zucchini or other seeds which you might
choose to plant in hills or mounds. The soil has to be flat.)
plant, go square by square or section by section, following your garden plan. Simply
place the squares where you want them. If it's windy, sprinkle water over the
squares immediately so that they don't blow away.
Then carefully sprinkle a thin layer
of about a half-inch of pulverized (very fine) compost, evenly, over the paper
towels until you cannot see them any more.
way to do that is to take a handful of compost and rub your hands together
briskly over the seed mats 'til enough compost falls down and covers the paper
moisten by sprinkling. Keep moist with daily or twice-daily watering until you
think all sprouts are up.
paper towel will decompose into the soil. And you will have a