Direct Seeding for Success
Direct Seeding for Success
If seeds are given ideal soil conditions, most will germinate and sprout within a few days. The exception is seeds that are naturally slow germinating or have hard seed coats that resist moisture penetration.
Water for Germination
The number one cause of poor germination is the lack of even, consistent soil moisture to ensure the seed can germinate. Seeds require constant and consistent watering to germinate. In hot climates like zones 9 and 10, this can be difficult for growers. If you are going to direct sow your seeds in a raised bed, we recommend that you thoroughly water the bed before direct sowing. We advise that you dig down at least 6″ to ensure that the water has penetrated all levels of the raised bed soil. You can cover areas with freshly direct-sown seeds with shade cloth to prevent the soil from drying out too quickly. On our farm, this is our number one trick to keep the soil moist and ensure even germination of seeds.
Prevent Seedling from Drowning
Once the seedling has sprouted, you want to pull back on watering if your soil holds on to moisture. Drowning your seedlings is the second most common mistake gardeners use. Seed sprouts need lots of oxygen to grow. If seedlings are left in standing water or waterlogged soil, this can cause a lack of oxygen and the sprouts will die.
Use Finely Shifted Soil to Cover Seeds
Seeds have very little extra energy for anything except sprouting through soft soil and reaching to the light for photosynthesis. This means your sprouts cannot push through large soil particles, sticks, or rocks in the soil. It is your job as a gardener to ensure the soil you top your seeds with is finely shifted and free of obstructions that would prevent the seed from making its way to the top.
Prevent Soil Crust
Soil naturally has many different sized aggregates. From small pebbles to the tiniest sand particles, soil varies widely in its composition. Much like concrete, when soil is watered with a sprinkler or rain droplets, the larger particles are pushed further down into the ground, and small particles can form a crust. This crust can prevent seeds from breaking through the surface. By mixing in large amounts of organic matter, you can prevent hard crusts from forming. This is referred to as improving the “tilth” of the soil. If your garden area is new and has poor soil composition, you can focus just on the areas you wish to direct sow your seeds. To improve the soil in the seedbeds, add 2″ of compost and mix in thoroughly to the top 2″ of the soil. Use a soft rake and finely rake the seedbed. Remove any debris, sticks, or rocks. Avoid walking on the newly created seedbed.
Create a Furrow
When it is time to plant your seeds, we recommend that you make a furrow. A furrow like the ones shown in the photo are indention in the soil that you can make with a dowel, handle of a rake, or even just your hand. The furrow does several things. It gives your seeds a place to stay put, helps retain moisture by creating capillary action in the soil, and helps you identify where you planted your seeds. Don’t forget to label what you planted and the date!
Once your furrow has been created in moist soil, you can plant your seeds. We recommend that instead of burying your seeds, you place them in the furrow and then cover them. By covering them with finely sifted soil, the seeds can use as little energy as possible to break through the soil.
Once your seeds have sprouted, it is now time to protect them! It is essential that you protect seedling from small bugs after they sprout.
If it is a really hot day, provide protection from the hot sun.
There are lots of products you can use to protect your seedlings. Diatomaceous earth works great but MUST be kept dry. We like to add a physical barrier to keep insects off our seedlings. You can do so by using a small pot that you cut the bottom out of. It is just enough to keep insects out and the Diatomaceous earth dry.