Gone to Seed

Making a gift from – and for – the garden.

Fall is an excellent season for crafting from the garden. Many plants make seed heads in the fall, which can be harvested and used for making seed paper – fun, easy and a great opportunity to be creative with recycled materials. During Zenger Farm’s upcoming Winter Camps, campers will make seed-paper greeting cards for loved ones to place in spring gardens where they can watch their gifts grow.

HandsON-seed_dipytch_1Materials Needed:

Newspaper (about four full pages)
Waterproof bin or bowl (shoe box size or larger)
Water
Cornstarch (not necessary, but helpful)
Cardboard
Window screen
Small seeds (see “Helpful Hints” for suitable choices)
Flower petals, herbs, dried leaves, spices for decorating (optional)
Cloth napkin
Rolling pin

Note: Making seed paper can be an indoor or outdoor project. It can be a bit messy, so outside is always a good choice — and spread out some newspaper to catch the overflow if you do this indoors.

1. Rip newspaper into very small pieces in your bin or bowl. You can use a paper shredder, but hands can be fun shredders, too! Transform the newspaper into pulp, by adding enough water so that the ripped paper is fully saturated and there is extra water in the bin. Continue ripping the newspaper and mixing it with the water. Keep adding water until you have a smooth mixture that is close to the consistency of a thick smoothie. (The mixing of the paper and water can be sped up by using a blender, but doing it by hand is good, messy fun.) Once smooth and mixed, you shouldn’t be able to read any newspaper words or see any pictures. This is your paper pulp.

HandsON-seed_dipytch_22. Add a sprinkle of cornstarch to your paper pulp. This helps bind the paper together.

3. Lay out cardboard on a flat surface and set the window screen on top of it. The cardboard will catch any water that drips out of the pulp.

4. Take a scoop of pulp (½ cup or more), and spread into a thin layer on your old window screen. Pulp can be spread into any shape or size, but the thinner the pulp is spread, the more quickly it will dry.

5. Begin adding seeds and decorating. The seeds can be placed randomly, used to write a message, or placed as a picture. Sprinkle seeds onto paper and gently press into pulp with your fingers. If you’re using other decorations this is the time to add them.

6. Place the cloth napkin over your decorated paper pulp. Use a rolling pin to flatten the pulp into desired paper thickness (the thinner the better). The cloth will absorb the excess water from the paper.

7. Carefully remove the napkin from the paper by picking up one edge and peeling it away. (The littlest kids may need help with this step). Peeling the cloth away slowly will help keep any decorations from sticking to it.

8. Leave wet paper on the screen to dry overnight. Placing it in the sun will speed up the drying but can cause the paper to dry unevenly and create bumps or turned up edges. If you want to speed up the process, you can set a hair dryer to low and evenly blow it across the paper.

9. Once the seed paper is dry, write a message on your paper and give it as a gift. Or keep it as decoration or for other crafts such as watercolor canvases or window ornaments. If you decide to grow your paper in the garden, make sure to cover it with a little bit of soil (seeds only need to be covered with soil as deep as they are long) and water!

Helpful Hints

Choose some seeds Use seeds that like to be planted at the same time of year and at the same depth. Beets, carrots, and radish would be a great combo for spring. Spring radishes and fall pumpkins, on the other hand, could be challenging. Some wildflower seeds can be placed in the garden in the fall to overwinter and sprout in the spring, such as calendula, bachelor buttons, cosmos and columbine.

Paper shapes Cookie cutters can be great guides for creating paper shapes; an offset spatula would also work well. Place cookie cutters on the screen and add paper pulp, seeds and other decorations. Remove the cookie cutter before rolling out the paper.

Color choices Add a drop or two of food coloring to your pulp for lovely, muted hues. Or use colored paper, like birthday card envelopes or used tissue paper, to color the pulp.

Add some scent Use fresh or dried herbs, spices, and essential oils for decoration and aroma. If you pick fresh herbs, make sure to set them out to dry before using them on your paper.

Laura Cerny
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Laura Cerny

Field Trip Coordinator at Zenger Farm
Laura Cerny is the field trip coordinator at Zenger Farm, a working urban farm in southeast Portland where kids can learn about sustainable food systems and environmental stewardship.
Laura Cerny
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