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Throwing seeds on top of soil

 
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I am new here and have just seen the Sepp Holzer videos where he just throws seeds on top of the land. I have couple of questions that maybe someone could answer.
Will these seeds grow? Wouldn't the birds just take them? Don't they need to be pushed in the soil? What would his (Holzer's) mixture be? Would they include trees as well as vegetables and flowers and herbs? Would this work on a steep mountain side with very gravel as soil? Or would there need to be terraces built or dug out? Thanks for your great site.
 
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Great questions. I have 2 answers for you:

1) Sepp Holzer and a lot of people want to mimic nature. In nature, the seed will fall to the ground - some on good soil, some gets eaten - sounds like the parable Jesus taught. Not sure what Holzer would plant by seed, but I would guess about every kind of plant. The ones best for the situation will grow and thrive. Others just don't make it. That is what nature does so we should do that also.

2) I am not Sepp Holzer or a lot of other people. If I spend money on vegetable seeds, I want them to grow and produce so I am going to plant carefully and tend to the plants. As a result, I have to deal with sicker, weaker plants.

I do think the ultimate goal is to have seeds that are adapted to my specific property/area/microclimates. If I let them develop over the years, I will have good quality and abundance of seeds. Then I can just throw them on the ground like Sepp Holzer and have a paradise. Right now, I am just not there with my time or my resources.
 
pollinator
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This thread should help
https://permies.com/t/4714/permaculture/Broadcasting-Seed-mixes-Sepp-Holzer
 
Johann Paetsch
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Wow, thanks. This is an amazing site. So much to learn from.
 
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In the bottom of the planet, we're just about to go into our winter, with April being lupin sowing month. Sowing 300kgs of lupins, I will definitely not be doing anything other than scooping them out of the sack with my hand and flinging them around the orchard!

Even with my raised garden beds for more intensive kitchen vegetables, I simply open the packet and sprinkle the seeds around the bed. I would estimate probably an 80% success rate with this method. I try to avoid disturbing the soil if at all possible, unless I'm planting a new fruit tree and it simply can't be avoided.
 
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It partly depends on what local birds you have, and which seeds they love best. Here, we've never been able to grow peas, because even if we cover the seeds in the soil, the local partridges come and eat every single one.
 
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Rebecca Norman wrote:It partly depends on what local birds you have, and which seeds they love best. Here, we've never been able to grow peas, because even if we cover the seeds in the soil, the local partridges come and eat every single one.



Rebecca, sounds like you have a perfect opportunity to test the artificial grape flavoring seed defense Try "innoculating" a batch of peas with artificial grape flavoring, plant and see if the partridges still eat them, or if they leave them alone!

I have seen it reported here on Permies that seedballs with artificial grape flavoring mixed in are not damaged by birds. No direct knowledge, but it sounds like you have a near perfect testing opportunity.
 
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I mostly scatter seed. Mostly because I work a lot but really want to keep a big garden. I have found a few tricks because of this. I like to scatter carrots,dill, beets, arugula, turnips, radish, lettuce and other things that do well close together. I may just water or but a layer of good compost on top and pat it down a bit. I have found that I get a better result scattering then putting each individual seed in the ground because I have time to plant more seed this way. After things start to come up in the spring I fill in bare spots with things that I have started indoors like my cabbages. Also I had this idea one year to mulch my garden with leaves in the fall to see how it worked out. The slugs where horrible the next spring but I had pulled up potatoes that fall I left the inedible one on the ground. I had a little crop of red potatoes the following spring. It was wonderful. I have sense read about some famous gardener doing this with straw. She would lay her seed potato out in the fall with a good layer of straw over top and the starts would come up in the spring. I know there are a few good things about scattering seed that I have taken inspiration from gaia's garden about polyculture beds.
 
pollinator
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The cost is not as steep as you think.
1oz packet might cost you $2.50 but a 16oz (1lbs) bag is only $8.
So for the same $8 you get 5X the amount of seeds by buying in 'bulk'.

So on a bigger scale you get some fertilizer from the birds when they eat some of the plants, you let nature pick the best sites to grow your seed, you also get the select for only the strongest sets of seeds/plants.
 
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I buy seeds by the pound I buy them by the packet I buy things from the grocery store and plant them basically it is a joy to have seeds aplenty to sew and throw around.

But! I still don't want to feed the birds in order to avoid this I have set up a PVC frame with orange no fencing over the top of it.
As areas sprout stop being seeds I intend to move it and then scatter beneath the new section.
We shall see how it works.
Also sewing during a rain event can give you an advantage in that the seeds may sink in.
Lastly we only see that really goes the way this is the one that's never been planted. If tossing on the ground the only way you can give it a chance, go for it.

 
pollinator
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I would think that moisture will be the limiting factor with surface strewn seeds. Plus the nature and the condition of the "soil" would have a big bearing too. Thus broadcasting seed atop bare undisturbed soil exposed to sun and wind sounds like a failure about to happen.

The only seed I have deliberately surface broadcast onto unprepared soil has been grass seed. I quickly discovered that "strewn & walk away" wasted most of the seed and my effort. My neighbor pointed out that if I scratched the surface with a garden rake before sowing then lightly watered the surface each evening that I might actually grow a lawn. I gave it a try and ended up with lush grass seedlings.

Thinking about this permaculture wise, Mother Nature favors seeds that fall into crevasses or get lightly covered in soil via a heavy rain. And seeds tend to germinate far better with a few rains or heavy dews. So if I wanted to emulate nature, I would want to do more than mindlessly throw seeds and walk away.
 
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Su Ba has it right, IMO... It was explained to me that the whole purpose of working the soil is to allow the seeds you sow to be covered with it, and enable moisture to get to the seed so it will germinate.
 
William Bronson
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Ah yeah, I forked my strip beforehand. But there are times and places where I just toss, or toss and then tromp.
 
pollinator
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Su Ba wrote:I would think that moisture will be the limiting factor with surface strewn seeds. Plus the nature and the condition of the "soil" would have a big bearing too. Thus broadcasting seed atop bare undisturbed soil exposed to sun and wind sounds like a failure about to happen.

The only seed I have deliberately surface broadcast onto unprepared soil has been grass seed. I quickly discovered that "strewn & walk away" wasted most of the seed and my effort. My neighbor pointed out that if I scratched the surface with a garden rake before sowing then lightly watered the surface each evening that I might actually grow a lawn. I gave it a try and ended up with lush grass seedlings.

Thinking about this permaculture wise, Mother Nature favors seeds that fall into crevasses or get lightly covered in soil via a heavy rain. And seeds tend to germinate far better with a few rains or heavy dews. So if I wanted to emulate nature, I would want to do more than mindlessly throw seeds and walk away.



totally, i agree. you dont have to make it perfect, and especially dont make it flat, but just a good raking makes the soil loose enough on top and gives little grooves for the seeds to fall into.

it does though really depend on what you are seeding. with some things this will work, but it will take a huge amount of seed to get a few plants. some things this works great, brassicas are pretty easy to start. arugula starts pretty well being broadcast anywhere.
with lettuce, chamomile, mugwort, strawberry and others...you have to do it this way, put right on top of the soil and not buried. and ideally after a bit of raking up and preparing the area, and importantly watering BEFORE you throw your seeds down.. but then theres other things that like to be deeply buried, or well...at least futher down, and if they arent planted that way just wont start and dry out on top of the soil.
 
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I am attempting something similar this year. Doing no til, with a clover cover crop that was planted a while back. I chopped back the clover for mulch and to open up the ground to light (clover was pretty thick in places). Then to spread seed, I mixed the seed into a wheelbarrow of compost and then scattered the compost over the cut area. I used a rake to even it out and mix into the mulch. Finally, I watered it down. Hoping for the best.
 
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I'm doing more or less the same thing Elisha. I want to border our yard with flowers for the pollinators so I am planning to scalp the area with a weed whacker to knock the grass down at least for a little while. Then I'm mixing my flower seed in a wheelbarrow with soil and sprinkling it on top.
 
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Lots of great points in this thread!

I'd also like to bring up the point that most traditional garden vegetables were bred and selected to perform under certain conditions. The scatter and walk away method is not one of these conditions. Now you would definitely have some seeds germinate but the success rate will be FAR lower than planting them the conventional way.

One approach I've been taking lately is to have a small area where I practice what I consider to be close to "ideal permaculture". Scatter seeds, don't irrigate, lots of polyculture, don't weed, etc, etc. The amount of plants that make it to the end of the season is kind of pathetic but each one of those plants will give me lots of seeds. I then plant those seeds in that small area the next year and continue year after year.

I'm hoping that in 10-20 years these seeds will have enough of the traits that will allow them to survive in a situation of sheer-total-utter-neglect (as Mr. Shepard would say). In the meantime I will still toil away planting my other veggies using strategies somewhere between conventional and my idea of "ideal permaculture". I want all of my gardens to be ideal but I want high quality, nutrient dense food even more. At this moment, making compromises to my ideals is what will achieve this goal. As it has been said many times, don't let perfect be the enemy of the good.
 
Jason Silberschneider
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I've included a photo of the results of my broadcasting seeds wantonly onto undisturbed ground that had a light layer of hay spread over it first. No tilling, just over the top of bare gravel with no soil content. Lupin seeds went first, and peas a few weeks later. You can see the pea layer just beginning to sprout underneath the already established lupins.

To be fair, the local parrots and pigeons don't seem to like legume seeds, even when they sit on the ground waiting for rain. If I'd done the same thing with oats, every seed would be gone the next day. My plan is to broadcast my oat seeds into the established lupin and pea plants to "hide" them from the birds. This seems to work.

Conservatively, I'd say I'm getting an 80% success rate with my legume seed broadcasting, but I have a feeling it might be higher than that. A very dense lupin layer is coming up, followed by an equally dense pea layer.
lake_pea_layer.JPG
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Basically all of my gardening is throwing seeds on top of soil. It's working well for me.

This is last years first ever broadcast sewing and I did it in July.
green-berm.jpg
[Thumbnail for green-berm.jpg]
 
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I have old dog pen with weeds can I throw sunflower  seeds in dog pen and will they grow
 
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Hi Melinda,

Welcome to Permies!  You have found the best spot on the web.
 
Peter Ellis
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melinda hamilton wrote:I have old dog pen with weeds can I throw sunflower  seeds in dog pen and will they grow


It depends How much wear and tear does the dog put on the ground? How much sun does the space get? What's there now? Will you be able to water the seeds in and give them some regular watering until they germinate?
If you have one or more active dogs using the pen, they are pretty likely to beat up anything you plant in there. Tall plants as sunflowers tend to be are quite susceptible to being knocked over and broken by dog activity.
 
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I had the most amazing success with a salad garden last year. I took the odds and ends of a bunch of old greens seeds and radishes and carrots and scattered them over a 4x12 bed . I took a lttle rake and scratched the surface a tiny bit after I spread the seeds. It was like a carpet of salad. I think the timing was the important thing... We had a couple of weeks of light rain afterwards so perfect for germination. I tried again this year and it's not raining so I'm out there everyday with the hose trying to keep it damp and boot seeing a lot of germination.
 
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I've never heard of just dumping seeds on the ground and leaving them there. When I bought a variety pack of flowers, the instructions said to lightly rake it into the soil. Yes, the birds will eat some of the seeds. You'll likely see them eating your seeds for a few days. Eventually they'll eat the seeds that are easy to find, and move on to food elsewhere. They'll never find every last seed.

The biggest problem you'll encounter with this growing method is that it takes consistent sun and soil moisture to get some seeds to germinate. There was no spring season in Oregon last year or this year, it went from rain every day to baking hot sun every day. In spite of my watering the flower garden almost daily, the soil still dried out enough each day to stop many of the seeds from germinating. Some seeds such as California Poppy will germinate in spite of drying out each day on the soil surface, I got plenty of those. Other seeds preferring cool moist soil won't germinate as consistently. I had only one Lupin germinate last year, and none of them came back this year from last year's seeds. Mole plants, mint, even mullein, all failed to germinate. I got a few new lemon balm seeds that germinated.
 
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We love watching the birds at our bird feeder.  The birds pick and chose what they like. As they pick and chose a lot gets thrown on the ground.

Next birds walk all over the ground looking for what they like that was thrown down there.

The moral of this story is that a lot of seeds get thrown on the ground.  So much that there are enough seeds for the birds to eat some.  Enough that they pound the seeds into the ground as they hunt for what they want. What is left will come up if it gets enough water.

Seeds just need some help from mother nature to become beautiful plants.
 
Jenny Wright
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Another point is the cost of seeds. I usually very carefully plant and baby my seeds the first year I buy them. Then the next year when I've saved seeds, I can just kind of scatter them anywhere and everywhere. For example I have so many leek, lettuce, green onion, marigold seeds (to name a few) that I saved over the last few years that I've just been throwing them wherever there is so bare ground or a spot I just weeded. Save those same seeds and over time you get plants that grow like weeds. I have some cherry tomatoes and tomatillos that grow on their own and do so much better than the seeds I buy and baby inside and I do not live in the best climate for tomatoes.
 
Peter Ellis
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"Throw sow", aka broadcast seeding, is a perfectly valid technique, but it's not appropriate for everything. It shouldn't be used with seeds that require being buried - not going to work for the obvious reason that the seeds are not buried. But for seeds that can be at or barely below the surface, seeds that require some light to germinate, and seeds that you're spreading by the thousands over some relatively large space, it works and works well. There are a number of variations, from broadcasting oats into tall standing grass and then cutting the grass to provide cover for the oats, to just taking that last handful of the mesclun mix from last year and tossing it onto some rough spots in a prepared garden bed and watering them in well.
It's a technique that doesn't look for particularly high germination rates and is not suitable for expensive seeds where you need to maximize the return on each seed. Broadcast seeding maximizes return on your time, and when you're talking about a cover crop, or a catch crop of leftover salad greens, there's no reasonable return if you take the time to plant each seed individually.
Schissandra, chufa, Turkish rocket? I plant each individual seed, with stratification and soaking overnight as required. I may still plant closer than recommended, but I don't believe in open space in a garden bed ;) Thin if needed by harvesting ;)
Oats and field pea cover crop mix? I throw that stuff out there, water it and leave it to its own devices ;)
 
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