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close this bookIntensive Vegetable Gardening for Profit and Self-Sufficiency (Peace Corps, 1978, 158 p.)
close this folderChapter seven: Planting
close this folderSowing seeds
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBroadcasting
View the documentIntensive spacing of seeds
View the documentDiagonal offset planting
View the documentClose row planting


Sowing seeds is an important skill that all farmers and gardeners must master. Poorly sown seeds will result in poor, thin crop stands and cause the farmer more work for replanting. It is better to take time and care when sowing seeds to insure good germination and less replanting.

A good guide to follow when planting seeds is to cover the seed with no more than twice its thickness of soil. When planting seeds in rows, a furrow should be made with a hoe. Then the seeds can be scattered thinly in the furrow and covered with a layer of soil or compost. The soil is then firmed down slightly by patting it with the hand or the blade of a hoe. This firms the soil and gives good contact between the seed and soil. Be careful not to pack the soil too tight, as this would make it difficult for the young plants to come up through the soil.

There are three methods of sowing seeds used in intensive vegetable production: broadcasting, diagonal offset planting, and closely spaced rows.


Broadcast planting is the method of sowing seeds by scattering them over the surface of the soil. Broadcasting is usually done by hand. Although broadcasting may require some practice before it is mastered, when properly performed broadcasting can increase yields and extend the reaping season.

Most vegetables that are to be transplanted can be broadcast in the seed beds. Carrots, mustard, turnips and radishes give very good results when broadcast planted.

Small seeds such as lettuce, cabbage, carrots, onions, or turnips, should be broadcast so that the seeds will be one to two inches apart. If the seed is sown too thick, some thinning of the young plants will be necessary. Carrots can be mixed with sand or cornmeal at the rate of one part seed to eight parts sand or cornmeal. This mixture will help the farmer sow the seeds more evenly so less thinning will be needed.

Broadcasting seeds allows the young plants to create and benefit from the living mulch, "mini-climate" effect much earlier in the season.

Intensive spacing of seeds

To plant seeds on intensive raised-beds, the farmer can either make closely spaced rows across the width of the bed or plant in a diagonally offset pattern, which gives each seed the same amount of room from every other seed.

Diagonal offset planting

The diagonally offset pattern of planting may seem somewhat difficult to the beginning intensive gardener. A four sided frame the width of the bed, made of small bamboo with 1 inch mesh chicken wire stretch across will greatly simplify the seeding method. (see figure 7.0)

The one inch chicken wire is made in a hexagonal pattern, that is a six sided pattern. When planting seeds that are to be spaced 1 inch apart, you would drop one seed in each hole of the mesh. (see figure 7.1)


Figure 7. 0 Chicken wire with bamboo frame laying on a bed for use in diagonal offset planting

Figure 7. 1 1 inch spacing through chicken wire

For seeds to be spaced further apart, for instance 4 inches, you would drop a seed then count four holes and drop the next seed.(see figure 7.2)

Once the planter is familiar with this method, he will find that it will save time and work. For example, less thinning will be required. This method makes the most intensive use of the growing space, with the plants covering the soil quickly and evenly.

Figure 7.2 4 inch spacing through chicken wire

Close row planting

This method is a little easier than the diagonal offset method but usually requires more thinning of the young plants, which can be very tedious and time consuming work.

When planting rows on an intensive bed it is best to plant across the width of the bed. From table 2, page 145, determine spacing for vegetables to be planted and mark rows with a stick across the width of the bed. For example, if onion seeds are to be sowed, you look on the chart and see that they are planted at 4 inch spacings. You then mark the rows 4 inches apart, sow the seeds thinly in the furrows, cover them, and firm the seed bed by patting with the hand where the seeds were sown. The seeds should be sown so that they are 1 to 2 inches apart. After the plants are growing, they will be thinned out to 1 plant every 4 inches.