The Dos and Don’ts of Direct Sowing


Sowing a seed immediately into the bottom, nurturing it, and reaping the rewards is among the best gardening actions you are able to do—but many gardeners don’t. There are lots of causes to direct sow. Usually, you’ll have earlier harvests as a result of the seeds will germinate when it’s the proper time to develop, and stronger seedlings as a result of transplant shock isn’t a difficulty. Planting seeds typically (as a substitute of shopping for transplants) provides you extra varietal choices, and you may also save some huge cash (1 packet of 30 to 150 seeds usually prices lower than a 6-pack of vegetation). After which there may be the private satisfaction issue. Ask any youngster who has planted a sunflower seed how they really feel when that flower towers over their head, and also you’ll perceive what I imply.

Sadly, there are some things that may go unsuitable when endeavor the seemingly straightforward follow of direct sowing, and maybe that’s why extra individuals don’t do it. The next are some tricks to attempt to some pitfalls to keep away from that may result in direct-sowing success.

Do these items for the best success


1. Do get your timing proper

calendar page

The commonest time to sow seeds immediately into the backyard soil is in spring. Nonetheless, late summer season and fall are additionally appropriate instances whenever you desire a second harvest or vegetation are not out there on the nursery to buy.

 

calendar page

2. Do select varieties which might be straightforward to develop from seed

Usually, annual varieties are simpler to develop from seed than perennial varieties, and inside that group is the simplest of the simple. Arugula, beans, cilantro, collards, corn, cucumbers, dill, endive, kale, lettuce mixes, parsley, peas, pumpkins, spinach, squash, and Swiss chard are all good decisions for greens. Root crops resembling beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, and turnips ought to solely be direct sown. These crops usually won’t develop that root that you just wish to eat if transplanted. Some annual flowers which might be straightforward to direct sow are spider flower (Cleome hassleriana and cvs.), nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus and cvs.), sunflowers (Helianthus annuus and cvs.), and zinnias (Zinnia elegans and cvs.).

 

thermometer in soil

3. Do verify the soil temperature, not the air temperature, earlier than you plant

Each seed has an optimum temperature for germination. Seeds react to the soil round them, not the air above the soil. Some prefer it sizzling (corn and cucumbers), and a few prefer it cool (peas and spinach). Use a soil thermometer to verify the temp. You may idiot seeds that desire cool circumstances (lettuce) when the soil is just too heat for a second planting by placing the seed packet within the crisper compartment of the fridge for 3 to five days earlier than sowing.

 

4. Do match your sowing method to your selection: row, clump, hill, or scatter

Seed row

Most gardeners are aware of planting in rows (that are good for beans and peas as a result of it retains the sprouting vines organized) and hills (superb for vining crops that want well-drained soil, resembling cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash). Clump or scatter sowing may be a bit much less acquainted, nevertheless.

Clump sowing works nicely for these styles of which you don’t need simply 1 plant, resembling bronze fennel, chives and dill. Sprinkle a whole packet of seed in a few 1-foot-round area. Scatter sowing for mesculun or any reducing greens is a good way to maximise area. Put together the soil within the space (a large row or sq. foot), and evenly scatter the seeds, attempting to not have them contact. These are sometimes replanted greater than as soon as all through the rising season, eradicating 1 planting after a second or third reducing and instantly resowing the realm with extra seed.

 

5. Do tamp the soil —don’t depart it fluffy

gently covering seeds

Seeds want direct contact with the soil to soak up sufficient moisture to provoke the germination course of. Fluffy soil dries out. Tamp the soil evenly with the flat of your hand—however don’t compress it—after sowing.

 

Don’t: Keep away from these pitfalls to get the perfect outcomes


1. Don’t rely totally on frost free dates

Many seed packets say to attend till “all hazard of frost has handed” earlier than you plant. The USDA charts and native extension service seasonal predictions are based mostly on averages from the previous 5 to twenty years of temperatures at or under 32°F. However frost can nonetheless occur at a temperature as excessive as 38°F. How is that potential? First, all official temperatures are noticed at 6 toes off the bottom, not on the seedling stage. The remaining is all about thermodynamics.

chart for seed starting
Illustration: Conor Kovatch

Merely put, cool air is denser (and due to this fact heavier) than hotter air. As the bottom and vegetation radiate the heat they absorbed from the solar through the day into the air simply above the bottom, the temperature of that air causes it to rise, and cooler air settles all the way down to take its place (known as inversion). If the air is moist, and there may be little or no wind, the coldest air stays shut the bottom, condenses, and types frost on the vegetation close to floor stage. Low-lying pockets are probably the most weak to this radiation frost. Your yard might be fairly totally different from what the climate report is predicting relying on its elevation, relationship to a physique of water, and surrounding vegetation.

 

seed packets for wildflowers

2. Don’t select most perennial varieties

As a normal rule, perennial vegetation take an excessive amount of effort and time to develop to an considerable measurement. There are a couple of exceptions (pictured proper), the most typical being wildflowers planted within the fall after the bottom has cooled under 45°F (so that they don’t begin rising till spring). Many wildflower seed varieties must have their dormancy damaged by seasonal temperature adjustments to germinate. Permitting nature to do the work will increase the proportion of profitable germination in spring.

 

sowing seeds

3. Don’t plant too deeply

Seeds usually tend to rot earlier than the seedlings emerge if they’re planted too deep. Some seeds, resembling alyssum and cleome, even want mild to germinate. Dill and plenty of lettuces do higher if they aren’t coated with soil as nicely. These seeds ought to merely be pressed into the soil to make sure good contact and left uncovered or evenly coated with straw or vermiculite to assist retain moisture.

 

4. Don’t select varieties that  aren’t suited to your zone

choose varieties in your zone

Identical to with perennials, sure seeds aren’t lower out for sure climates. For example, in case your zone has a brief rising season (Zone 3, for instance), you won’t wish to direct sow moonflowers (Ipomoea alba, annual, above) as a result of the plant may die from cool temperatures earlier than you see the primary flower. Test the variety of days to maturity on the seed packet, contact your native extension service, or ask a fellow gardener in your space for varieties which might be applicable to your locale.

 

5. Don’t  neglect to guard seeds and seedlings from pests

cover seedlings to protect from pests

Some seeds are delicacies for critters resembling birds, chipmunks, and bugs. Till the vegetation get to an affordable measurement, they’re weak. The easiest way to guard your seeds and younger seedlings is with a floating row cowl resembling Remay®. This cowl can even shield towards mild frost and assist retain moisture. As a result of it’s a “floating” row cowl, it won’t maintain the vegetation down if left in place past the seedling stage. If it’s used as safety from insect pests later into the season, it must be eliminated earlier than flowering crops begin to bud in order that the bees can pollinate the vegetation.

 

Tip: Peeking isn’t allowed

I don’t know a single gardener who hasn’t dug within the soil to see what’s occurring below there not less than as soon as. Attempt to withstand. Earlier than you begin poking round or replanting, learn the seed packet for the variety of common days to germination—and double it. These numbers are based mostly on optimum rising circumstances, each soil temperature and moisture. The variety of days to germination is when the seed coat swells sufficient for the basis tip to emerge, not whenever you truly see the primary sprout.

 

6. Don’t neglect to plant your helps whenever you sow the seeds

plant supports when sowing seeds

Set up your trellises, teepees, ladders, cages, and assist rings whenever you sow the seed. Doing it will each mark the situation of your planting and make it simpler to untangle fast-growing runner beans after they’ve grown a foot in 3 days.


To Skinny or To not Skinny

thin seedlings for more space

Whether or not it’s higher to area seeds correctly when sowing or to skinny as seedlings emerge largely will depend on the kind of gardener you’re: obsessive or extra relaxed. Should you save each seedling that emerges, or are you able to bear to chop your seedlings off? In case you are the previous, sow with a spacing that retains the plant’s mature measurement in thoughts. You may all the time sow further seed if a couple of don’t germinate or interplant one thing else. In case you are the latter, sow tighter and eat your thinnings. Both means, you’ll get extra produce when you permit the seedlings to have the area they want in order that they don’t should compete for water, vitamins, and solar. With higher air circulation, they are going to be much less prone to fall sufferer to illness as nicely.

There’s one vegetable that have to be thinned: beets grown for his or her roots. That seed within the packet is in actual fact a cluster of two to five seeds inside a capsule of dry flower petals. You may’t separate them till they begin to develop. However as soon as they’re 2 inches tall, preserve the strongest one, and lower the others to get pleasure from in your salad.


Sandy Merrill labored for the Chas. C. Hart Seed Firm for greater than 15 years and teaches seed-starting ideas and methods throughout New England.

Images: Danielle Sherry

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