Whether you're a seasoned gardener or just getting started, sometimes the hardest part is that first shovel-full of dirt at the beginning of the growing season. Getting outside and preparing the soil for the next planting can feel like one part you'd rather just skip and go straight to looking out at all those seedlings busting up through the dirt.
Chris Chapman designed roll-out vegetable mats, each designed for different growing seasons. The mat is made from corrugated cardboard with embedded seed pouches and fertilizers. The idea is that as the cardboard breaks down, the seeds are able to germinate and take root; meanwhile, you put in the least work possible.
While it's a bit late in the year to try this for fall veggies, it's the perfect time to prepare your own garden roll now so that this coming spring, sewing seeds is a snap. These roll-out mats are common for flower gardens, and there's no reason why you can't create your perfect organic herb and vegetable garden ahead of time in the same way.
Creating Your Own Roll-Out Garden Mat
Step 1 - Decide what vegetables and herbs you'd like to grow during spring, summer and fall. This way you can have your mats at the ready each time you need to sew seeds for that growing period. The best choices for what to grow is whatever you eat most during the year. If you've saved seeds from last year's garden, you won't even need to hit the garden shop before getting started!
Step 2 - Check on germination rates and companion gardening suggestions. This will help you figure out which seeds should go together in which mats. For instance, lettuces or radishes have very short growing times, whereas broccoli or tomatoes have much longer stretches of time before they can be harvested. Additionally, there's the size factor. It's not a good idea to put lettuce seeds on the same mat as tomato seeds, since the growing tomato plants will steal all the sun from lettuce seedlings. Finally, check into companion gardening. This is when you put plants together that have complimentary needs. Often companion gardening can eliminate the need for any organic fertilizers and natural pesticides you might otherwise need to use. Getting this information together and planning out your mats with these things in mind will maximize the ease of care and yield of your garden.
Step 3 - Create your mats. This can be done in a few ways. While Chapman's design is clever, putting seeds in pouches doesn't work since each seed needs to be spaced out. There are simple ways to make your own seed mats that will remedy this. For instance, you can gather up a roll of heavy duty brown paper towels, flour, and your seeds. Make a thick paste with flour and water, and spread it over the unrolled paper towel torn to whatever length you'd like. Then place the seeds in the paste at the distance recommended on the seed pouches. Let the towel dry completely, roll it up, label it, and stash it until it's time to use it in your garden.
Step 4 - Grow your garden. When it comes time to grow the seed mat you've created, simply loosen a sunny patch of soil in your yard, unroll your mat, cover it with compost to the depth appropriate for whichever seeds you're planting, water, and voila! You're done planting your garden in minutes.
A successful garden will still require quite a bit of care, but planting sure couldn't be much easier or carefree than this! A little late fall and winter preparation will save you tons of time during the rush of growing season.