Thursday, May 19, 2016

Seed Paper

For a while now I have been thinking about dandelions as a food source. They are hardy, easy to grow, and nearly the entire plant is edible. I've already published a post about eating dandelions as a salad. The thing I've been trying to figure out is what the best way to cultivate them might be. Their wispy little seeds do a fine job of spreading the plants far and wide, but what if you are looking to plant them all in one spot? What if you want them evenly dispersed over a specific patch of dirt? I found my solution the other day while exploring the Fireflies and Mud Pies website: seed paper! This way the dandelion seeds should all be stuck in a biodegradable sheet, and would stay wherever you plant them. Genius! In addition to dandelions, you could make this paper for any type of flower with wispy little seeds. I really enjoy Western Salsify plants, so I could make some seed paper to plant them in my flower garden. Likewise, you could make it with sowthistle or prickly lettuce seeds. Both sowthistle and prickly lettuce are, like dandelions, edible greens, and make good animal fodder.

Here's what you'll need for the project:
Wispy Seeds
Scrap Paper (Junk Mail, Newspaper, etc)
A Food Processor or Blender
Cheesecloth or a Flour Sack Dish Towel
An Embroidery Hoop
A Bowl of Similar Size to the Embroidery Hoop
A Rubber Spatula

First, use your embroidery hoop and cheesecloth (or dishtowel) and make a sieve for forming your paper.

Locate a bowl or dish of similar size to your embroidery hoop. This will catch the water as it drains off of your wet paper.

Either a food processor or a blender will work for this project. Don't worry about ruining your equipment, as paper breaks down easily in the water and will wash out easily if you clean it right away.

I used prickly lettuce seeds for this demonstration, but any sort of wispy seed will do. Dandelions or sowthistle if you're growing for animal fodder, Western Salsify, Marigolds, Daisies, or Black-Eyed Susans if you're growing for a flower bed.

Just look to your "to be shredded" bin for paper to recycle! Remember that junk mail or newspaper can be used, but avoid paper with a waxy coating or receipt paper. Regular old dull paper will break down easier in the blender, as well as in the ground.

Tear the paper into small pieces before adding to the blender.

Add water and begin to process. Continue adding water until the paper is broken down into a pulpy paste.

Place your embroidery hoop sieve over top of your bowl.

Spread about half of the paper pulp onto the "sieve." You might need to tighten your dishcloth or cheesecloth at this point, as it will likely sag under the weight.

Sprinkle your seeds evenly over the top of the paper paste.

Use the remaining paper paste to cover over your seeds.

Allow the seed paper to drain until it is dry to the touch, then move it to a warm area to continue drying. I put mine on top of my clothes dryer for a few days. Once it is completely dry you can store it in an envelope or zip top bag until you are ready to  plant! When you are ready to plant, just put it where you want your plants to grow and cover over with soil. As you water, the paper will break down and allow the seeds to germinate.