As we covered in a previous post, now is definitely the time to be starting your favorite summer vegetables inside. Tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers all thrive in the greenhouse this time of year. But this is also the time of year when farmers and home gardeners begin to think about direct sowing some vegetables in the garden.
(A) Fibrous Root Structure (B) Taproot Structure
Contrary to plants that need to be started indoors and then transplanted out, direct sown (DS) crops are ones that can be grown straight from seed planted in the soil of your garden. Often, but not always, direct-sown crops can’t be easily grown as transplants because of large, taproot structures (think carrots and radishes). Common DS crops include most root vegetables (beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, rutabaga, etc), greens grown for “cut and come again” harvesting like salad mix, arugula, baby kales, collards, chard, and most legumes (peas, beans, etc). On most commercial farms, these crops are seeded with the help of a mechanical push seeder like an Earthway or Jang but you, as a home gardener, can use the tried and true method of making a furrow (a small trench in the soil), sprinkling seed into the trench and then covering it back up with soil! Truly simple!
For each DS crop's ideal soil temperature for germination or the approximate timing of planting, look at this super helpful guide from High Mowing Organic Seed which has all the necessary information you need to successfully grow direct-seeded crops in your garden!
One last tidbit before we leave you to planting is that for many of these crops thinning is incredibly helpful. Essentially, whether we’re using a push seeder or just our own two hands (which given the state of things should be washed with vigor!), we may need to remove some of the germinated plants in order to allow the majority of them to grow to maturity. A good way to think about this is by imagining how much space a fully mature carrot or radish will take up in your garden bed, and plucking out germinated seedlings until that space is attained. Often this looks like removing every other germinated seed from a planted area. This may feel like a waste of valuable garden space or seed, but will in fact increase your total yields at harvest time.
Aaron French | Urban Farm Manager
P.S. check out this helpful video from MI Gardeners, complete with an idea for a DIY tool to help with seed sowing.