How to Plant Seeds Directly in Your Garden

Planting seeds seems like such a simple thing (and really, it is)… but not everyone has the best results when direct-seeding their vegetables.

Therefore, here are a few steps that will increase your chances of success.

  1. Prepare the soil for planting. If you have a no-till system with loose, friable soil, you’re probably set to plant.

    Otherwise, your soil will need to be loosened (eg, with a fork), or tilled, or the cover crop will need to be mowed and incorporated… all before the seeds go into the soil.

  2. Make a trench with a hoe or some other tool.

    The depth of the trench will vary according to the size of your seeds. Two things to pay attention to:

    1. The type of soil you have. If you have loose, sandy soil, make your trenches a little deeper, as your soil will lose moisture more quickly. In heavier soils, make shallower trenches.

    2. More important than the depth of the trench is the depth of the soil when you cover your seeds in your trench. A general rule of thumb:

      1. small seeds (such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, radishes, etc) can be covered with about 1/4 - 1/2 inch of soil (according to your soil type)

      2. large seeds (such as peas, beans, corn, squash, etc) can be covered with 1 - 2 inches of soil

  3. Carefully cover your seeds, trying to get an even coverage of soil over the whole row. This will help with even germination.

  4. Firm the soil over the seeds, either with your hand, the back of a rack, or some other tool. This is a very important step, as it ensures good seed-to-soil contact and helps keep more moisture around the seeds.

  5. Water the rows of seeds (unless it will rain within the next few hours). The entire area can be watered, but it is most beneficial to water just the rows you planted. This way, the soil between the rows is relatively drier, which will slow the growth of weed seeds.

    Aim for a gentle spray of water, to avoid disturbing the soil over the seeds or shifting the seeds in the soil. It is usually better to pass the water over the row several times, so that it reaches beyond the depth of the seeds. Dig down with your finger to make sure that the water has gone deep enough into the soil.

  6. Monitor your seeded area, and water again in a day or two, if needed. Ideally, the soil should stay moist until you see the seedlings sprouting above the soil. Pay most attention to rows with small seeds / shallow planting depth, as the surface of the soil tends to dry out quickly.

  7. Optional: if it’s hot and sunny, and you’ve planted something with tiny seeds that take several days to germinate (eg carrots or beets or spinach), cover your rows with an old sheet or a few boards. Maybe it doesn’t look the prettiest, but it will help germination immensely — in terms of a higher rate of germination, more even germination, and faster germination.