PHOTO: courtesy of Zach Loeks
Zach Loeks
June 5, 2020

When it comes to putting seeds in the ground, there are a few different ways of going about it.

You can dig a trench, scatter seeds, bury and later thin out the seedlings. That works fine, though it does involve extra effort and a fair amount of wasted seeds.

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You can also poke holes in the ground with an implement—traditionally, a stick does the trick—and drop a seed or two into each. But this method is also not the most efficient use of time and energy.


You Need a Seeder

If you’ve got a decent amount of seeds to plant, though, using a seeder is probably the best route to take. While there are, or course, large pull-behind machines to handle this task with a tractor, you can also pick up a low-cost precision seeder—a wheeled apparatus that, when pushed, deposits evenly spaced seeds into the ground—at most hardware or garden stores.

The best known seeder is from Earthway, and it’s my preferred tool for seeding. The brand is by far the most affordable and easy-to-use seeder I’ve used.

My Earthway is the first seeder I ever owned, and the one I would recommend for a start-up gardener, regardless of scale of type.

How does a seeder work? You just push it along a garden bed and it puts seed in the ground. Here’s all you need to know to start using a seeder right away.


Here are 6 things to consider when ordering seeds.


Seeder Basics

My seeder has two wheels. The front wheel packs the soil lightly to make sure it is firm for good soil to seed contact.

The furrower makes a narrow trench in the soil so the seed can be laid in a row at the correct depth. A wing nut on a bolt attached to the furrow can be adjusted to bury seeds deeper or shallower, depending on the seeds’ needs.

Whether you have a small seed, like carrot, or a large seed, like peas, will determine your depth.

The hopper holds all the seeds above a chute that feeds behind the furrower to make sure you’ve got enough seed loaded to do the job.

seeder
Seed plates (courtesy of Zach Loeks)

How It Works

The seed plate can be fixed inside the hopper and turns when engaged by a belt that is ground-driven off the front wheel. The seed plates can be used for different types of seeds to achieve ideal density in the row.

They achieve the best seed rate for different-sized seeds by having variation in the holes in the plates. This allows the seeds in the hopper to pass through into the chute that feeds to the furrower.

These variations include the following:

  • Quantity of holes
  • Size of holes
  • Presence, absence or size of a cup around the whole

As you can imagine, seeds like peas need a bigger hole than do radish seeds. But also, more frequent holes will mean more of any certain seed size to pass through. And cups help catch more seeds as well.

As you push the seeder, the hopper turns and feeds seed at the correct density into the chute and drops into the furrow row.

For my seeder, Earthway makes various seed plates to handle a variety of seed sizes. They also provide a blank plate to customize using drill bits.

Behind the furrower, a drag chain lightly covers the seed. If the furrow is deeper, with more soil pushed aside, the drag chain will catch it and reapply over the seed to meet the ideal depth.

seeder
(courtesy of Zach Loeks)

Mark Your Rows

The back wheel follows behind the wheel chain. It tamps down the soil to make a firm seed row, with good seed-to-soil contact, for ideal germination conditions.

If you have a row marking system, you can follow your equidistant rows to make sure your crop is evenly spaced for easy weeding. My Earthway seeder came with a row marker that can be set at any spacing.

When you seed one row (try to maintain a steady hand and keep is straight), the row marker drags adjacent to mark the next row, with precise spacing between.

A precision seeder is a simple, elegant tool that gets the job done for a less-than-$150 investment.

Grow On,

Zach

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