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Broadcasting Seed mixes- Sepp Holzer style or otherwise

 
Travis Philp
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After reading a bit about seed mixes and seeing Sepp scattering seeds on youtube, I'm intrigued by the idea of being able to toss seeds at random rather than pain over straight lines and getting the spacing juuust right.

Coming from a training/background of strict rows of one crop per bed though, my brain keeps putting up alarm signals when I think about how this could work.

Would anyone care to share their seed mix/broadcasting experiences? Any hints, seed combinations, casting techniques? Especially on how to avoid the problem of having to thin out a crapload of seedlings that came up in suffocating clumps?

Did you toss mulch over or just let the rain bury the seeds? Did you rake it in, or run it over with a tractor like Sepp does? Are seedballs necessary? I'm growing sandy soil, and I'm guessing thats a whole different ballgame than clay....

I recall reading somewhere that you have to watch for heavy seeds in your mix...that they tend to not fly as far as the other seeds. Was that in Gaia's Garden?

I've tried scattering seeds twice in the past. Once was a mix of calendula, sunflower nasturtium, summer savoury, and a few others I can't remember. The only thing that germinated was the savoury. This could be because the nasturtium and calendula and sunflower weren't planted deep enough, or maybe I put too much mulch over top of it.

The second time I tried, was broadcasting pak choi seeds and then raking them into the soil. The germination rate was excellent but many plants came up right next to eachother in big clumps, bringing the need for a lot of thinning and a lot of wasted seeds. There were a lot of bare spots too, which I think could have either been due to burying the seeds too deep with the rake, or as a result of clumping the seeds together, as seemed more likely due to the germination pattern.
 
Brenda Groth
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i do a few of my seeds in MIXES..and always have..like mesclun lettuce type mixes or baby greens mixes..but..i find that when i'm broadcasting other seeds or planting them i'm better off putting them in where i know they are..even though i choose to not use rows..i still prefer to know what is where..for one reason..a lot of seeds look so similar in the early on growing stages..but might produce totally different crops..example the seeds of cole plants always look very similar coming up..but make totally diffferent crops..such as broccoli or cauliflower or cabbage or collard...all used differently and growing differently.

so i guess with me it depends on the seed types..and how they will be used..my cut and come salad gardens are best to be broadcast in a large group..by them selves so i know i can CUT THEM OFF and not worry about cutting off a producing head of something else.

very seldom is anything in any type of rows in my gardens..but i'll admit a few things still end up in a block or row..like my corn which is wind pollinated..and my hedgerows of bramble crops.

i do not do seedballs..but i have damp soil here.

i also do think that soil contact is important..so i do try to make soil contact with my seeds..bywalking over the area or using the back of a rake to press them in..but also some seeds do prefer to be buried a little..and some prefer less mulch some more..so you have to experiment..

my gardens are done more like a food forest garden with the canopy, understory, perennial and annual fruits and veetables as well as brambles and vines..and some ground covers..i use fewer anual seeds than anything..so the annuals do get a little more attention..smoe of mine self seed..and they go where they will..some i cut the seedy tops off an put where i want them to grow next year..some i saves seeds or buy seeds, and plant in the spring..some as i said are broadcast but some are planted in the spaces between other plants..esp things like melons, pumpkins, uckes, squash, etc..and i always put my beans on the edges nearest the paths or they won't get picked....same with peas..they are larger seeds so you can just push them down through the top layer of the mulch..some really fine seeds won't germinate if they are too deep or too shallow with no ground contact..such as lettuces or carrots..i will rake back the mulch, sow them on the soil and lightly rake through them..and not put mulch back over them until the seeds are up, growing and thinned.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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In the videos, Sepp is instructing a neighbor in his methods, and tells him that the beds won't work unless they're harvested more often. My impression is that there's a harvest of microgreens, then one of radishes and greens, then several harvests of whole plants at various stags of maturity. It also would seem that he produces enough seed, that wasting some isn't much of a worry.

Masanobu Fukuoka didn't use seedballs all the time. They make sense in some circumstances, and perhaps sandy soil is one of those. Scarce seed, or a mix with various sizes, might be other good reasons.

I haven't been able to get sunflowers to sprout through mulch. They also seem to do better when poked into the soil point-down.

Steve Solomon reports very even distribution of seeds by pre-sprouting them a little, then mixing them into water that has been thickened slightly with cornstarch. The gel full of seeds then gets dispensed from the cut corner of a plastic bag, similar to piping with a pastry bag.
 
Jordan Lowery
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this is the only way we plant things in our forest garden that isnt a perennial plant like a tree or a shrub. everything else is tossed. its so easy my 5 year old niece can do it and always asks me if we can "plant some seed" which means can we walk the food forest, eat some food and toss some seed around. you just take some seed, and toss it out there. water or wait for rain and they will grow. nature does all the hard work.
 
Brenda Groth
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good point "nature does all the hard work"..

that IS the way nature plants..it broadcasts..either by wind, rain or drop..or by using birds and animals to spread the seeds.

so i guess if we copy nature we will have about the same rate of growth that nature would have..which also includes some loss to birds and animals..and die off.

if we have special seeds we really have to count on growing though, it doesn't hurt to save some and plant them carefully..

 
Jordan Lowery
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i think given good soil we can have better growth rates than nature. i have to do a lot of "thinning" sort of like how sepp does. but that just means quick food for me

one thing that helps is collecting your own seed, or buying seed in bulk. this way you have tons of seeds. for example i have about 10,000 broccoli seeds from 12 plants going to seed last winter/spring. buying seed in bulk can help to get started rather than buying seed packs. just google bulk vegetable seed. youll save a TON of money.
 
                        
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I saw that video as well.  I thought it was great!  I loved his approach, it just seems to make sense.  Rather than plant, wait and harvest, its plant and continuously harvest.

The best I can figure he has a fairly carefully selected seed mix to encourage as much comparability as possible (deep root, shallow root, quick growing, slower growing etc...) as possible.  Then as the garden fills in he harvests whatever.  The veggies don't have to be fully grown to be harvested.  (the emphasis seems to be on harvesting, like Joel said, he admonishes his neighbor for not harvesting more) Then eats or sells what he wants and feeds the rest to his animals.  I guess the trick is to not think of the extra as waste.  Think of it as feed, mulch or compost.

Good tip soil, I'll have to look into buying bulk seed.
 
Travis Philp
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We made a short hugelkultur bed the other day and I broadcasted some seed on one of the sides of the mound. The mix was lettuce (short root, quick growth) dill (spike root and insectiary) kohlrabi (cuz I have a million kohlrabi seeds) and beets (deep rooted longer term crop, that can be thinned young for beet greens) It may be late in the season for the dill and beets but I thought it was worth a try. I'm worried that many of the seeds will slide down the hill to the bottom and into the grassy path though.

 
Brenda Groth
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as you mentioned kohlrabi..the problem i find when you broadcast seeds like kohlrabi, say with your cut and come again cole type crops..is identification when young.

i try to keep my "heading and bulbing" crops away from my greens or salad crops to some small extent..that way i don't eat the "heads or in the case of kohlrabi swollen stems" before they get a chance to form, as a green..of course most of them are FINE as a green, however..you aren't getting the plants full form you may have planted them for.

all kohl plants look so much alike..so i have a bed where i put the cut and come agains, i might sow some other plants in there with them, say carrots or parsnips and of course they are around perennials and herbs and under trees and shrubs..but not mixed together with the heading kohls or swollen bulb and root coles..cause i want those to grow up and produce heads or roots or whatever..

i guess if maybe i was better at identifying them when small i wouldn't have to keep them separate..

my gardens are large enough though that i can keep them somewhat separated into different areas..i have found that if i don't..sometimes my greens get too large before i realize that they were greens, or i wonder..what eer happened to the kohls (ate them as salads)
 
Jordan Lowery
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learning to identify seedlings early is CRITICAL when broadcasting seed and growing with this method. once the first set of true leaves are out its pretty easy once you get the hang of it. some plants you can even tell from the cotyledons what they are.
 
Travis Philp
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Good point Brenda. I'm pretty good with seedling identification and I don't have any other cut and come again cole crops in the mix so it should work out alright. I just hope I don't get a whole bunch of bare spots on the bed. I suppose I could just throw some green onion or lettuce seeds in there...
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Perhaps on the day you broadcast a mix for the first time, you could clear a few rows and plant them with a monoculture, one for each type of seed. Stick a label in each one, or do them in alphabetical order, or order of expense, or something.
 
Suzy Bean
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Appropedia has both a general sepp holzer link: http://www.appropedia.org/Sepp_Holzer and an Intercropping link: http://www.appropedia.org/Intercropping which suggests some common plants and combinations to use
 
                                              
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hubert cumberdale wrote:
i think given good soil we can have better growth rates than nature. i have to do a lot of "thinning" sort of like how sepp does. but that just means quick food for me

one thing that helps is collecting your own seed, or buying seed in bulk. this way you have tons of seeds. for example i have about 10,000 broccoli seeds from 12 plants going to seed last winter/spring. buying seed in bulk can help to get started rather than buying seed packs. just google bulk vegetable seed. youll save a TON of money.


brocolli is an outbreeder. You will eventually run into issues not saving seeds from enough plants. Some types of plants this is more of an issue, corn and broccoli being among those. You realy want seed from 100 plus plants.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
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I simply do each seed broadcasted separately.  I found that if I didn't lighter seeds tend to drift together as heavier ones fall straight down.  I don't add anything to it, just seeds.  No muss or fuss.

 
Matt Baker
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What are people's experiences thinning seedlings with the broadcast seeding? I have seen Sepp promote harvesting plants as soon as possible to let the rest grow, but I don't imagine Sepp crawling around on his Krameterhof thinning out seedlings. In nature seedlings get sorted out so not thinning would fit the permaculture 'less is more' principle. On the other hand, sprouts make tasty salad garnishes . . .

 
Steve Forest
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Location: Dundalk Ontario 4b
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I sowed 4 acres this spring with only 2 or 3 hours per week because I have a full-time job. Broadcasting is the only option for me for annuals. For bigger seeds like beans/pumpin/watermelon/sunflower/pea, I try my best to cover them with a layer of soil using a hoe. This is my first year of doing it and so far so good in term of germination. I am not planning to thin any seedlings for I don't have time. Here is my observations:

1. For best result, broadcast before rain with soaked seeds.
2. If no rain in the next couple of days, don't soak the seeds.
3. Remove mulch before seeding and mulch back when seedlings are bigger enough.
4. Using a hand-held broadcaster is better.
5. Germination rate is higher in wet spot.

I am trying to find out what plants are good for self-seeding so that I don't need to do it myself. Majority of my time is on trees and shrubs this year.

Steve
 
Travis Philp
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I've had a lot of failure with my seed mixes this year. I'll get good germination but it'll be only a few types of seed out of the whole mix that'll come up. Usually it's radish...
 
Cee Ray
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SILVERSEEDS SILVERSEEDS wrote:
hubert cumberdale wrote:
i think given good soil we can have better growth rates than nature. i have to do a lot of "thinning" sort of like how sepp does. but that just means quick food for me

one thing that helps is collecting your own seed, or buying seed in bulk. this way you have tons of seeds. for example i have about 10,000 broccoli seeds from 12 plants going to seed last winter/spring. buying seed in bulk can help to get started rather than buying seed packs. just google bulk vegetable seed. youll save a TON of money.


brocolli is an outbreeder. You will eventually run into issues not saving seeds from enough plants. Some types of plants this is more of an issue, corn and broccoli being among those. You realy want seed from 100 plus plants.



those numbers are important for folks who are trying to maintain a particular genetic line (ie heirloom) ..another way is to grow seed from many varieties of brocolli (or other outbreeders) that will work at a particular location in order to create a diverse gene base that is not so susceptible to inbreeding depression and has the added bonus of a staggered harvest from one sowing...
 
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