Sowing Vegetable Seeds in the Ground

Posted on 26 April 2011

Planting seeds in the ground without protection gives you less control over the factors that affect germination than with seeds started indoors. But, when seeds fail to sprout, it’s probably the result of one of these conditions:

  • Seeds may rot because the soil is too cold (too early planting).
  • Seeds planted too deep may not reach soil surface.
  • Seeds may be unable to break through crusts on dried-out soil surface.

Seeds may lack enough moisture to sprout when the soil is allowed to dry out.
You can control these problems by timing the planting correctly, by preparing the seedbed properly and keeping it watered, and by sowing each type of seed at the right depth.


1.Preparing the seedbed
Seeds sprout best in a moist, well-drained, well-pulverized soil. You can work up the soil either several weeks or a few days before planting. To an often-used garden soil, simply add a fresh supply of amendments and work them in. You will have to use more elaborate techniques to prepare soil that has never been gardened before.
2.Soil preparation.
To establish a new vegetable garden in an old lawn or weed patch:
•    Remove all debris and strip the plot of any sod—the top layer of soil containing the roots of grass or weeds.
•    Stack the sod to the side, upside down. Scatter a high nitrogen fertilizer between each layer of sod and water the pile occasionally to hasten decomposition. (Water the stack occasionally’ to turn it into compost you can use the next time you prepare the soil.)
•    Spade or till the soil thoroughly until it is well pulverized.
•    Spread a 2 to 3-inch layer of soil amendment and any additional fertilizer at the rate recommended on the package. Work these into the soil.
3.Forming beds and furrows.
After you have spaded the soil and incorporated amendments, form beds for planting.
Every three feet, dig a furrow to spade depth and use the excavated soil to build up beds on either side. The furrows between beds serve, in dry climates, to pond irrigation water or, where rainfall is heavy, to drain-off the excess. Level the beds; then rake lightly to skim off pebbles.
4.Timing the planting
When you plant depends on the weather and the crops you are planting. Generally, seeds of leafy vegetables won’t rot if planted too early; neither will most root crops or pea seeds. But seeds of beans, corn, cucumbers, squash, melon, okra, Southern peas, and other heat-loving crops will rot if planted in cold soil.
You can purchase an inexpensive soil thermometer, which gives the optimum soil temperature for sprouting seeds of each kind. (Soil temperature generally lags 10 days to 2 weeks behind air temperature.)
•    Stack the sod to the side, upside down. Scatter a high nitrogen fertilizer between each layer of sod and water the pile occasionally to hasten decomposition. (Water the stack occasionally’ to turn it into compost you can use the next time you prepare the soil.)
•    Spade or till the soil thoroughly until it is well pulverized.
•    Spread a 2 to 3-inch layer of soil amendment and any additional fertilizer at the rate recommended on the package. Work these into the soil.
Forming beds and furrows. After you have spaded the soil and incorporated amendments, form beds for planting.
Every three feet, dig a furrow to spade depth and use the excavated soil to build up beds on either side. The furrows between beds serve, in dry climates, to pond irrigation water or, where rainfall is heavy, to drain-off the excess. Level the beds; then rake lightly to skim off pebbles.

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