Sowing Seeds


I think when most people think about starting a garden, their thought process is simple, "Grab some seeds, put them in the ground, and let them grow."  The process of planting seeds in soil is technically called sowing

There are two different methods of sowing.  Open field sowing refers to the form of sowing used historically in agriculture where fields are prepared, and then directly sown with seeds.  Because I don't have a field, and this blog is geared mostly towards people with "backyard" gardens, I won't be dealing much with open field sowing, or large scale gardening.

The second method of sowing seeds is called Hand sowing.  Traditionally, hand sowing refers to the process of casting hand fulls of seeds into prepared ground.  We are going to talk more about hand sowing, but on a smaller scale.

If you are starting a garden without seeds and have starts, or transplants, please click here to visit that page.

Most home gardeners start their fruits and vegetables from seeds.  This method is much less expensive than buying transplants, and can be very rewarding.  Typically, depending on your area's last frost date, you will want to start your seedlings by sowing them indoors or in a greenhouse. 

Materials Needed:
  • Peat pots or other seed starting trays or your garden bed
  • Your Garden Design
  • Seed starting mix or homemade soil
  • Seeds
  • Plant markers
  • Spray bottle 
There are such items like seed depositors, heat mats, or grow lights that you can also purchase, but they aren't necessary.  Unless you are a serious gardener, I wouldn't suggest spending more money than you have to, and even then I would only recommend the grow lights.

Seed Starting Indoors 
  1. To start your seeds indoors, fill your peat pots, or other small containers with seed starting mix or homemade soil. 
  2. Check the back of the the seed packet for each crops "seed sowing depth."  This is how deep you will need to plant your seed.  Typically these depths range from about ¼" to ½".  Using your pinky finger, poke a whole in the soil the length of your pinky nail for a ¼" hole.  For ½", go up to the knuckle closest to your pinky nail.
  3. Drop between 2-3 seeds in each hole. 
  4. Spray the seeds a few times with the spray bottle. 
  5. Cover the hole with some more soil, and gently pat it down.
  6. Gently water being careful not to wash your seeds away
  7. Place next to a sunny window, or under fluorescent lights
Direct Sowing
Depending on what you are sowing, and where you live, you may be able to sow your seeds directly into your garden bed.  For our backyard gardens, I strongly recommend using the Square Foot Gardening Method.  Here is where your garden design plan will come in handy. 

Check your Square Foot Spacing Chart to see how many plants will fit into each square foot (hopefully you tied these off when you built your bed).  If your crop is not listed, follow these guidelines found on the back of your seed packet:
  • 12" spacing - 1 per square
  • 6" spacing - 4 per square
  • 4" spacing -  9 per square
  • 3"  or less - 16 per square

  1. Now that you'll know how many you need, poke holes about 1" deep into the soil
  2. Drop 2-3 seeds in each hole
  3. Spray the seeds with a spray bottle
  4. Cover the hole with some more soil, and gently pat it down
  5. Gently water each square, being careful not to wash away any seeds!
Put the rest of your seed packet into a Ziploc bag, and label it with a permanent marker.  Store it in a cool, dry place.  Also, don't forget to mark your newly planted seeds with garden markers!  They all look the same in the cups, covered with soil, and it can be easy to loose track of what is what.  You can buy garden markers at the store, but I was surprised at how expensive they can be.  I'd suggest using Popsicle sticks, or even using the seed packet stapled to a Popsicle stick (be sure to cover this with a Ziploc bag, the sun and water will remove the ink from the packet).

Keep in mind that as your seedlings come in and begin to grow, you may need to thin out the seedlings.  The process of thinning is essentially cutting out certain plants to ensure the survival of others.  This is tough on some gardeners- they work so hard to grow their plants only to cut them down- but it is necessary.  Because you plant 2-3 seeds in each hole, there is a chance that more than just one will sprout and grow.  Without thinning, these plants will fight for water, nutrients and space, and they may not survive.  Wherever there are seedlings that are really close together, just some scissors and cut their stems as close to the soil a possible. 

Journal Ideas!

Lastly, if you haven't done it already, now is a good time to start your garden journal!  Decide if you're going to record things chronologically or by plant.  Some things to include in today's journal entry are:
  • The date
  • What you sowed
  • Why you planted that particular crop
  • A history or fun facts about it
  • Information from the seed packet or just put the seed packet in your journal
  • What you put the seeds in (direct sow or small pots)
  • What kind soil you used (brand, home made, or mixture)
  • The weather/temperature
  • Take some pictures using your date stamp function in case you don't upload them right away
  • Draw pictures 
If you have any seeds that haven't sprouted after about 15 days, you should probably re-plant them.


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