If you grow a vegetable garden, you probably get tired of bending over placing seeds in a furrow. Perhaps you are also tired of making the planting furrow and then covering it over and tamping it after planting. If so, you might be interested in one of the garden seeders on the market.
Several types of garden seeders are available. The simplest types require that you make a furrow and then manually cover the furrow; they just meter the seeds into the furrow. The more advanced seeders make the furrow, meter the seeds into the furrow, drag soil into the furrow and then firm the soil over the furrow (Figure 1). This latter type of seeder is the subject of this article.
Some seeders add a fertilizer hopper to meter granular fertilizer into the soil while planting. Many have an arm with a tooth on it that can be dropped down to mark the correct location for the next row. Additional, optional seed plates for other crops may be available.
These seeders won’t work well in hard, cloddy, trashy or rocky soil. The "tractor" power on these seeders is you, and you won’t be able to push the seeder through anything except well-prepared garden soil. Any plant residue on or in the soil will cause plugging. The deeper you set the opener, the cleaner the soil has to be. If you like to plant through a vegetative mulch, don’t try one of these seeders.
These planters use a vertical seed plate to meter the seed. The plate is rotated by a belt drive from one of the wheels. As the plate rotates, the teeth on the plate pick up seeds from the hopper, then, after about 90 degrees of rotation, the seeds fall down the seed tube to the furrow. Different seed plates are used for different crops (Figure 2). The size of the cells on the seed plate must correspond to the seed size. Also, the number of cells on the plate determines the seed spacing.
Results to Expect
These seeders tend to work better with larger seeds (peas, beans, corn, etc.) than with smaller seeds (carrot, mustard, turnip). This is caused as much by seed depth control as by metering. One problem with small seeds is that these seeders require a certain amount of seed to keep the metering system "primed"; if the seed level is too low, metering will be erratic. With small seeds, a full packet of seed may not be enough to prime the metering system. Even with large seeds, the last few seeds will not meter well. Don’t expect to plant a full packet of seed uniformly.
If the seed spacing does not suit you, you can use masking tape to close off some of the ports and thus increase the seed spacing. You can also decrease seed spacing by using a plate with a larger cell, thus allowing multiple seeds per cell. In some cases, using a larger cell and then closing off some of the cells will provide the desired seeding rate, but not uniform seed distribution.
These seeders make planting a garden much easier, but they still require a good deal of effort to push. They work best with larger seeds and are best suited to larger gardens. They require clean, well-tilled soil. At less than $100, they can be a useful tool for serious gardeners.