Sowing vegetables may seem like a simple thing, but it’s not, and doing it properly makes the difference between a successful harvest and a failed one. Today, we’ll discover the techniques for proper seed germination and how to multiply vegetables easily. Understanding how to use seeds correctly is a fundamental step for anyone starting a home garden. An important recommendation is to use, whenever possible, seeds from your own garden, properly saved from previous crops.
Herbaceous crops, i.e., vegetables with an annual, biennial, or perennial cycle, are normally multiplied by seeds.
Now let’s see the existing types of vegetable seeds and how to proceed with their propagation.
How to sow vegetables
As we just said, vegetables are usually multiplied starting from the seed. However, there are exceptions to this rule, especially regarding perennial species or those with swollen roots. These can be propagated differently.
The other vegetable multiplication techniques include:
- Division of rhizomes, bulbs, or clumps
- Multiplication by cuttings, letting the stolons take root
- Multiplication by stem cuttings, burying simple twigs at the right time
Let’s focus on vegetable seeds. These are of considerable importance for anyone who wants to start a home garden.
The main problem every gardener faces is how to obtain good-quality vegetable seeds. Our farming grandparents simply followed the rules of nature. That is, they cultivated a vegetable, such as tomatoes, allowed it to fully mature, and from the fruit, they saved some seeds for the next year’s crops. By doing so, they maintained the same quality and characteristics of the mother plant over time.
With the rise of hybrid seeds in the market, often produced by multinational companies, this ancient practice is increasingly difficult to apply. This is because hybrid seeds do not reproduce the characteristics of the mother plant from which they derive.
To return to the past, more and more initiatives are aimed at recovering and exchanging ancient native seeds.
The alternative, if we cannot find native seeds, is to turn to the market. Of course, try to buy seeds from qualified and organic seed companies that avoid hybrid varieties. This way, you can later save your seeds and use them in future crops.
Therefore, pay close attention to the vegetable seeds you purchase and avoid hybrid ones as much as possible.
Characteristics of the seeds we purchase for sowing
If we decide to buy the seeds of our vegetables on the market, we must consider certain characteristics. Here are the things that a seed must possess to be considered of good quality:
- High purity: the percentage of foreign bodies in the package must never exceed 5 percent
- Excellent germinability: by law, the percentage of germinating seeds must always be higher than 85 percent
- Good freshness: for reliable results, it’s best to use seeds from the last harvest or, at most, from the previous year. However, it’s worth noting that, for some vegetables, germinability remains almost unchanged for several years.
Vegetable sowing techniques
Depending on the species, sowing period, and climatic conditions of our garden, seed burial can be done in seedbeds or directly in the soil.
Sowing vegetables in seedbeds
We can distinguish between two types of seedbeds, the classic one, and the modern one.
In the classic seedbed, the seeds are sown densely in a bed of soft soil. After a few weeks, the young seedlings are transplanted into our garden.This technique is used for vegetables that tolerate root transplantation well.In particular, those with very small seeds, slow germination, and a long cultivation cycle that benefits from sowing in soft soil and possibly in a protected environment.These are relatively common vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, chilies, and many others.
We have already talked about the modern seedbed technique. It involves using styrofoam containers as a growth support. It’s essential to place only one seed in each hole of the seedbed. This way, a single healthy and strong seedling will grow to be transplanted into the soil at the right time.
Currently, most vegetables are reproduced by specialized nurseries using this technique. It’s a procedure that can be applied to numerous crops, including tomatoes, eggplants, chilies, green beans, cucumbers, onions, cauliflower, fennel, chicory, and more. This way, seedlings have a better root system growth. Additionally, sowing can be done earlier and planned in advance. A variation of this technique involves using small-diameter pots for sowing.
Position of the seedbed
In the spring season, seedbeds can be set up outdoors in sunny positions and using fertile soil. For early sowings in winter, it is advisable to use appropriate protection from frost, such as a balcony greenhouse or a glass-covered box.
Manual broadcast sowing
For some types of vegetables, direct sowing by broadcasting or “volata” is an option. This involves spreading the seeds evenly over the entire surface of the soil. This technique is used for seeds of vegetables that have relatively easy germination and require dense sowing. These include greens like turnip tops, spinach, parsley, chard, lettuce, escarole, basil, etc.
Broadcast sowing must be as uniform as possible, and certain distances should be respected. After germination, thinning may be necessary for the seedlings. To facilitate the even distribution of seeds, the soil is usually mixed with fine sand. After sowing, a light raking can be done.
Row or drill sowing
This technique is used for directly planting large seeds of vegetables that require certain distances to grow properly. These include vegetables like pumpkins, zucchinis, melons, fava beans, peas, garlic, beans, chickpeas, etc.
The seeds of these plants are distributed along furrows (known as row sowing) or in designated holes. Each individual bulb is then covered with a layer of soil.
Tips for Proper Vegetable Sowing
While sowing vegetables may seem straightforward, the process requires particular care. Let’s go through some essential tips:
- Vegetable seeds have varying characteristics from species to species. For very tiny seeds, attention should be given to ensuring even distribution. It’s also essential to avoid burying them too deep.
- As a general rule, seeds should be covered with a layer of soil about three times their diameter. This means that smaller seeds should be covered with a few millimeters of soil, medium-sized seeds with approximately 4-5 mm, and larger seeds with about 1-2 cm.
- Only a few vegetable species can be sown throughout the year (such as lettuce). Each vegetable has its season. Therefore, it is essential to follow a sowing calendar. We provide a lunar calendar for sowing and gardening tasks for each month.
- Sowings should always be done on freshly worked and adequately moist soil. Avoid sowing on dry soil.
- If sowing is done during the colder months, choose the sunniest portions of the soil.
- In mid-summer, when sowing in seedbeds, it’s essential to protect the seeds with shading.
- The soil used for sowing should be well-moistened during the initial stages, but excessive watering should be avoided. Overwatering might displace the seeds in the soil.
- Especially for sowing in seedbeds, the soil should be well-prepared. This ensures the best conditions for seed germination. The soil should be loose and rich in humus.
Following these tips will greatly increase the chances of successful germination and growth of your vegetable plants. Paying attention to each step of the sowing process will lead to a bountiful and satisfying harvest in your home garden.
Remember, gardening is a continuous learning process, and observing how your plants respond to different techniques will help you refine your skills and achieve better results over time. Happy gardening!
- NC State Extension Publications – “Soil, Plots, and Planters” – Detailed guide on selecting the right soil and containers for gardening, focusing on the specific needs of plants.
- NC State Extension Publications – “How to Create a Container Garden for Edibles in the North Carolina Piedmont” – Instructions on creating a container garden for edible plants, with insights into choosing containers, soil, plants, and maintaining the garden.
- NC State Extension Publications – “A Guide to Intensive Vegetable Systems” – Advanced guide to intensive vegetable systems, exploring techniques for maximizing yield and efficiency in small spaces.