Direct Seed Sowing

See how to sow your seeds direct thanks to these tips from Frances Michaels at Green Harvest Organic Gardening Supplies.

An advantage of direct sowing is it is less hassle; there is no need for transplanting, the plants establish easily with no 'transplant shock' and the seedlings are generally hardier.

The disadvantages of direct sowing are that the soil may be too cool for the seed to germinate; the soil needs careful preparation to a fie tilth and this can be hard on your back; the space may still be occupied by an earlier crop; or birds, rats and ants may steal the seed.

• Direct sowing into a seed row in the garden is used for many vegetables; especially large seeds such peas, beans, corn and leafy greens such as rocket or coriander. It is essential for root vegetables that are difficult to transplant, such as carrots. To sow seed in a row use a long piece of bamboo or dowel lightly pressed into the soil. Use a marker pen to mark measurements along your bamboo pole or dowel, for ease of judging distance between rows and plants. Check the seed packet directions for spacing.

• Seeds of squash, pumpkin or melon are usually planted in 'hills' instead of rows. This involves digging a circle 30 cm across and planting 3-5 seeds. Once germinated thin out to the 2 strongest seedlings.

• Broadcast sowing, where the seed is evenly scattered across the growing area and lightly covered; is used for green manures; covercrops; lawn seed; wildflower meadow mixes and insectary mixes such as Good Bug Mix.

Soil Preparation

To prepare your soil for direct seeding it is usually necessary to dig the soil over, breaking up lumps with a garden fork. Then rake it to a fine tilth. Do not try to prepare the soil when it is very wet, as you will just damage the soil structure. Organic fertiliser or compost can be spread over the area and forked through as part of the preparation. Lime should be added several weeks apart from any fertiliser.

Seed Sowing in Rows and Seedbeds

As a general rule sow most seeds to twice their thickness (diameter). Fine dust-like seeds are simply pressed into the surface. In cooler conditions it can help to sow the seed less deep than recommended, as it is warmer closer to the surface. If fine seeds like carrots are planted directly into rows in the garden it can help germination to cover the rows with folded shadecloth, cardboard or even an old weatherboard. Remove the cover as soon as the seed germinates. It can improve germination of small seeds planted direct into rows to cover them with sieved material, coconut fibre or seed raising mix rather than just soil.

Mulch in Seed Rows or Seedbeds

Mulch should not cover the seeds, as it will impede germination. It helps, however, to mulch between the rows, as weeds will take over very quickly. Tricks to applying mulch without difficulty include covering seeds in a small area such as zucchini or melon with an upturned pot. Then mulch the area and remove the pot when you are done. This leaves a neat circle of un-mulched ground around your seeds. For running vegetables such as melons, cucumbers and pumpkins you need to mulch heavily as you won't easily be able to mulch the area once the plants start to run. Aim for mulch 10 cm (4") deep. Or for seed in rows, cover the seed row with an old timber weatherboard or long, 8 cm wide strips of strong cardboard, mulch the area and then remove the strips. It helps if the straw or hay mulch is in fairly fine pieces. Add to the mulch along the rows once plants are germinated and over 10 cm high, to at least 8-10 cm deep, to prevent weeds germinating. It saves heaps of time to beat the weeds with mulch as trying to weed between young plants is very time consuming but is crucial to a healthy productive plant.


A seedbed is a small area of the garden set aside for seedling production. Pick the sunniest spot with good soil and drainage. Then dig the soil over thoroughly. The advantage of using a seedbed is that you only have to intensively care for a small area. It is possible to cover a small area during hot periods with PestGuard fabric or shadecloth on a frame, for improved germination. In cooler areas try to cover the seedbed at night with clear plastic or glass to keep the heat in and protect seedlings from a late frost. Seeds can be sown in rows in the seedbed much closer together for later transplanting.

Atricle by Frances Michaels
Green Harvest Organic Gardening Supplies

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