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Is it advisable to sow garden seeds with a broadcast seeder?

 
dan long
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I have searched google and learned lots of stuff i didn't already know about different kinds of seeders but I haven't found anybody talking about using broadcast seeders for anything besides cover crops.

I imagine one would calculate spacing as follows: (square feet to be planted)/(recommended spacing)=(number of seeds to be sown). One could count seeds individually or get a rough idea by weighing them. Either way is easier than sowing with fingertips. So, for instance, if i wanted to plant 100 feet of a 4 foot wide row (400 square feet) with carrots (3in spacing) then I would want roughly 1600 seeds. I'd mix them with sand, put them in a hand-cranked broadcaster and sow them. Afterwards, i'd rake them in and mulch lightly.

Maybe i want to do a polyculture of: green onions (3in), carrots (3in), lettuce (6 in) and spinach (6in). I might put in enough of each for 100 square feet (400/4) so that i would have: 400 green onion seeds, 400 carrot seeds, 200 lettuce seeds and 200 spinach seeds. For the most part, I wouldn't need any thinning.

The only problems i see with this strategy are:

Weeding would be next to impossible, so there would have to be some strategy in place to take care of that. Then again, planted so thickly (i am quoting SFG spacing) the weeds might never become much of a problem, especially with the fast growing vegetables that I gave in my example.

The numbers I give in these examples are based on PLANT spacing rather than seed spacing. That is because I am trying to think of a way to avoid thinning plants. However, in reality one couldn't expect 100% germination and therefore the plant spacing would turn out to be less. One could perhaps compensate for this by adding more seeds, for instance: expecting 70% germination, in the previous example of carrots, one might broadcast 2300 seeds (rounded up from 2285.71). However, germination rates depend on many factors and therfore would very from season to season, area to area, or even month to month. Personally, I would try to er on the side of too few so that i don't have to thin. Perhaps there are some who would er on the side of too much with the intention of "harvesting to thin" some of the immature plants.

This strategy would have VERY poor germination rates with anything that needs to be sown deeply. Then again, small seeds don't need to be planted deeply and might have excellent germination with just being raked into the soil. Besides, its the small seeds that are the biggest pain in the [rectal orifice] to sow at appropriate distance. Again, the plants i gave in my polyculture example would be excellent candidates for this strategy but maybe corn and peas should be done with a jab seeder (I learned about that one today and want to try to make one!).

What are your thoughts on this? Does anybody seed with a broadcaster? Has anyone heard of it being done successfully? Better yet, if this is the dumbest idea since Roundup, what other methods are there out there to save time, energy, and patience on seeding?

 
John Merrifield
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Location: West Virginia 6a Avgerage Rainfall 54" est. Average snowfall 36"
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Fukuoka style seed balls are broadcast.
 
John Elliott
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The only thing wrong with your idea, Dan, is too much math. Even rounding up to 2300, you are not going to be able to calculate your germination rate to two decimal places and come up with a meaningful answer. There is so much variability that can affect the germination rate: was there a heavy rain right after you broadcast that worked the seed into the soil? or did a huge flock of birds come by and take advantage of the buffet you laid?

Some seeds are better than others at broadcast methods. If you have ever watched a California poppy seed pod snap open and broadcast its seeds, you have seen one of the best designs evolution has come up with for broadcast sowing. At the other extreme is corn, which is now totally dependent on an animal (man) to remove the seeds from the cob, space them out, and plant them an inch deep. I have had good luck broadcast seeding radish, arugula, and mustard, but not as much luck with carrot, turnip, and lettuce. It doesn't seem like turnip and mustard should be that different, it's hard to tell the seed apart, but when I plant turnip, it really does a whole lot better when I make a scratch in the ground and rake the dirt back over the seeds.

For the polyculture you want, I would say go ahead and load it into the broadcast seeder, but when you get done, take a leaf rake and drag it over the field and then water the field well (or time for when a thunderstorm is coming).
 
B.E. Ward
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I know this is a dumb question, but wouldn't you have to walk behind a broadcast seeder? If so, that soil compaction might affect your results..
 
Steve Hoskins
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Location: NW lower Michigan
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sepp holzer does it by hand... Ten minutes in to the video, or 9:30 if you want to see how nonchalantly he plants a tree.

http://youtu.be/v_FkRehjsTM

Watch the whole thing if you haven't, but specifically, at ten minutes in, sepp shows his method for seeding. It works great, and now that I know it is possible, it is how I seed behind pigs, or any earthworks I do.

Sometimes, I will even seal the deal with a dirt kickin dance, usually out of uncontrollable joy and excitement!

The smaller the seed, the better it works, in general, but with some extra effort, even a bean can be kicked in.

As for spacing, and SFG, and weeding, well... You are on a slippery slope toward natural farming, so,
"it depends".

Happy sowing!
 
dan long
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John Elliott wrote:The only thing wrong with your idea, Dan, is too much math. Even rounding up to 2300, you are not going to be able to calculate your germination rate to two decimal places and come up with a meaningful answer. There is so much variability that can affect the germination rate: was there a heavy rain right after you broadcast that worked the seed into the soil? or did a huge flock of birds come by and take advantage of the buffet you laid?

Some seeds are better than others at broadcast methods. If you have ever watched a California poppy seed pod snap open and broadcast its seeds, you have seen one of the best designs evolution has come up with for broadcast sowing. At the other extreme is corn, which is now totally dependent on an animal (man) to remove the seeds from the cob, space them out, and plant them an inch deep. I have had good luck broadcast seeding radish, arugula, and mustard, but not as much luck with carrot, turnip, and lettuce. It doesn't seem like turnip and mustard should be that different, it's hard to tell the seed apart, but when I plant turnip, it really does a whole lot better when I make a scratch in the ground and rake the dirt back over the seeds.

For the polyculture you want, I would say go ahead and load it into the broadcast seeder, but when you get done, take a leaf rake and drag it over the field and then water the field well (or time for when a thunderstorm is coming).


So, how do you go about calculating how much seed you should use? You sound like you have lots of practical experience in this area.
 
dan long
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Steve Hoskins wrote:Sepp Holzer does it by hand... Ten minutes in to the video, or 9:30 if you want to see how nonchalantly he plants a tree.

http://youtu.be/v_FkRehjsTM

Watch the whole thing if you haven't, but specifically, at ten minutes in, sepp shows his method for seeding. It works great, and now that I know it is possible, it is how I seed behind pigs, or any earthworks I do.

Sometimes, I will even seal the deal with a dirt kickin dance, usually out of uncontrollable joy and excitement!

The smaller the seed, the better it works, in general, but with some extra effort, even a bean can be kicked in.

As for spacing, and SFG, and weeding, well... You are on a slippery slope toward natural farming, so,
"it depends".

Happy sowing!


I am watching the video as i type this. Thank you for the link!
 
dan long
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B.E. Ward wrote:I know this is a dumb question, but wouldn't you have to walk behind a broadcast seeder? If so, that soil compaction might affect your results..


It doesn't seem to be a problem for those who are sowing in a field type setting. In my case, my soil has such poor drainage that I absolutely have to plant in tall raised beds. I would broadcast from the walkways into the beds.
 
John Elliott
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dan long wrote:
So, how do you go about calculating how much seed you should use? You sound like you have lots of practical experience in this area.


I go by the various rates that are given by the seed companies for cover cropping. Use "deer plots" in your Google search. People are always trying to get a nice stand of turnips or chicory or something unusual to the area so that deer will be attracted to it.

And pay attention to the weather forecast. A good thunderstorm can work broadcast seed into the soil in the way nature intended. My worst results were when I broadcast some seed and then it had to sit there for two or three weeks for a good rain.
 
Dan Tutor
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John Elliott wrote:
dan long wrote:
So, how do you go about calculating how much seed you should use? You sound like you have lots of practical experience in this area.


I go by the various rates that are given by the seed companies for cover cropping. Use "deer plots" in your Google search. People are always trying to get a nice stand of turnips or chicory or something unusual to the area so that deer will be attracted to it.

And pay attention to the weather forecast. A good thunderstorm can work broadcast seed into the soil in the way nature intended. My worst results were when I broadcast some seed and then it had to sit there for two or three weeks for a good rain.


Exactly.
 
Peter Ellis
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Another variable is the cast and distribution pattern of your seeder. The two I have are meant for seeding and feeding lawns. They have a wide distribution pattern and long cast range, really not suited for trying to plant anything in any kind of bed.
 
Spencer Davis
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Location: New Castle, IN
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I broadcast seeded 2 packs of variety leaf lettuce this spring onto my newly constructed hugel and they have taken off! I have more lettuce than I can use. I have been giving some and also the ducks like it so none of it is going to waste. I also broadcast peas carrots and spinach. These three have sprouted and are growing but not nearly as well as the lettuce.
 
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