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If you're looking for thorough information on how to start seeds indoors, Fiskars Garden Author Robin Haglund has a monthly series covering growing plants from seeds. Currently, she has an article on the tools you'll need and how to sow the seeds, and she has an article on dividing seedlings and repotting them.
If you're looking for how to go about choosing seeds, Dee Nash's Seed Catalog Fun article, Teresa O'Connor's Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying Seeds and Easy Plants to Grow From Seeds Sown Directly Outdoors articles are a couple of good places to start. The purpose of my article is geared more toward the actual process of sowing seeds directly into the ground.
When you are choosing your seed packets, the information on the packages varies from brand to brand. Some companies pack a whole lot of helpful information on the back of their packages, everything from planting specifications to suggestions on how to get the most visual impact from your plants. Others, like the local nursery from where I purchase my green bean seeds in bulk, provide only the most basic information. This includes how deep, distance between plants, and distance between the rows.
If you are a visual person as I am, you might find seed packages which include information in graph format to be beneficial. I also find illustrations to be helpful. When I'm in the garden, I am not patient enough to be searching through a lot of text to find what I need, and I appreciate when I can quickly locate it via the charts and illustrations. If I had a better memory, I might not be so enamored with those illustrations!
When planning your seed sowing, the most important pieces of information on the packages to pay attention to are when to plant, the planting depth, distance between plants, and the distance between rows.
The planting depth is important because seeds need varying amounts of light to germinate. If a packet says to sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep and you feel like an inch is safer, trust the packet.
While it might be very tempting to plant your seeds and rows closer together than the recommended distance with the belief that you will get more produce that way, or maybe because you feel like you will be wasting money if you don't sow all of the seeds in your packet, following the advice on the distance between the plants and rows is very important for several reasons. First, the proper distance between the plants allows enough light to reach the leaves of each plant. Light is necessary for the production of chlorophyll which is necessary for photosynthesis. And photosynthesis is necessary for the production of glucose to be used for energy needs of the plant. Second, the proper distance between plants allows enough airflow which can help reduce diseases. Third, the proper distance allows enough room for root growth which means better absorption of nutrients in the soil.
When measuring distances and depths for your seeds, you can use a ruler and measure as you go. Some people prefer to instead stretch a tape measure along the length of their row. Fiskars offers a garden trowel that has a ruler stamped into it. Some people dig holes one at a time as they sow. Others like to scratch (or dig if the depth is deep enough) a trench along the length of the row, sow the row of seeds, and then cover the whole row. This is the method I prefer. Some people have a need for very straight rows and take this method one step further by placing a stake at each end of the row and stretching a string between the stakes to guide them in planting in a straight line during the sowing process.
When watering seeds that are newly sown, it is important to displace them as little as possible. This can be a difficult task with tiny seeds. A tip to help keep them in place is after scratching the surface in preparation for the seeds, water the soil before sowing them. This will help the seeds stick to the soil. Keeping the soil properly watered from that point will keep the soil moist and help the seeds stay in place.
Using a tool that has a fine screen to control the water flow will also help keep seeds in place. Fiskars offers a watering can that has a rotating head on it. There is a fine screen for delicate watering and a larger hole for quicker watering of established plants. Various types of attachments for garden hoses are also available for delicate watering.
After sowing seeds, make sure to mark the rows in some way. Row markers can be purchased, or they can be made at home from any manner of recycled materials. I chart my garden as I plant it, so I just mark my rows with large rocks.
When I chart my garden, I include what I planted in each of my raised beds, as well as the date I sowed seed or planted seedlings. If it's a plant that produces food, I also try to remember to record the date I begin harvesting. Again, being a visual person, this makes planning second plantings later in the season and rotating crops easier for me.
I hope you feel a little more prepared for directly sowing seeds into your garden and that you'll spend a little time reading the articles I shared at the beginning of this one to learn more about starting your plants from seeds.