I've posted a couple of easy gardening Instructables before. Back in '07 I posted a Soda Bottle seed starting Instructable, the sandwich bag seed starter & propagating succulent cuttings Instructable.
Today I'm posting another easy one that was pretty popular on my urban gardening blog and thought I'd re-shoot some images and make it an Instructable here. You've probably seen empty toilet paper tubes used to start seeds indoors--but I've discovered that they are just as useful outdoors when you are sowing seeds directly into the ground. This method helps me remember what I planted and where and saves on watering.
All you need are some seeds, a pair of scissors, empty toilet paper tubes and a desire to garden. You start by cutting the tube into sections like in the image attached.
Step 1: Placing Seed Markers
Once you've cut your tubes into sections insert them into the ground at recommended planting distances for whatever seeds you are sowing. Generally, on the back of a seed packet you'll find recommended planting distances and depths for whatever seeds you bought.
If I don't have the original seed packet I will usually just space them about an inch or two apart. Depending on the seed I will usually place two seeds per section in case one dies or gets eaten by garden pests or succumbs to disease.
Step 2: Seeds Have Sprouted
Depending on the seed you'll get germination within a few days to a couple of weeks. Since this idea came to me it has made gardening outdoors a little easier for me. If I'm growing a plant I've never grown before I may not be familiar with what the seedlings look like. Since I know that what is planted inside the paper rings are seeds I sowed, I know it is OK to pull any seedling growing outside of them because those would be weeds. This is also useful when you have non-gardeners helping you do things in the garden like pull weeds. You can just remind them that anything growing inside the paper seed marker is a plant and should be left alone.
This also helps a great deal when you're planing out a garden because you can visualize where plants will grow after you've sown them. You can lay out perfect rows for herbs and vegetables and even geometric patterns in your garden too when you know where the seeds are going to get planted and space things accordingly. You could even write the name of the plant on the tube and it should last long enough for you to identify them later.
I noticed that this also cuts down on the amount of water I use because instead of applying water to where I think I may have planted seeds I can water where I know I planted seeds.This reduces the amount of time I spend watering and how much water gets wasted because it is only applied to the area inside the paper ring.
Finding a use for these cardboard tubes keeps them out of the landfill. Adding them to the dirt provides organic matter for worms and other beneficial insects that break it down and turn it into soil for your garden.
Hope you find this Instructable useful and can apply it in your garden. If you live in the Chicago area I've got a new garden blog at Chicago Garden that I invite you to visit and participate in.