If you want to get technical about it, plants and seedlings can be planted into the soil, but only seeds can be sown.
And sowing your own vegetables from seed is often the cheapest and most effective way of creating a wonderful spring vegetable garden.
In fact, many vegetables grow best when sown from seed in the position you want them to grow.
Vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, peas, beans, turnips, swedes and beetroot will be most successful if you sow them directly into their intended place in the vegetable garden.
Don’t be tempted to purchase seedlings from the plant nursery to ‘get ahead’ with these vegetables – you won’t be doing yourself a favor, and you’ll definitely be wasting your money.
Other vegetables are fairly easy going when it comes to transplanting. Examples include pumpkin, cucumber, tomato, most brassicas, sweet corn, peppers, lettuces and many herbs. But even with these you can save yourself a lot of money if you grow them yourself from seed, and transplant them into your vegie patch when they’re ready.
Growing From Seed
But how to grow vegetables from seed? There’s nothing easier, if you know some of the tricks of the trade.
The obvious thing to do is check the instructions on the back of the seed packet. They often contain the best advice as to what best suits that particular type of seed, but if you’d like more information, grab yourself a good garden reference book – especially for vegetable growing – that will give you advice on the best time to plant as well as the best method.
Good advice to grow vegetables from seed can mean the difference between getting those seedlings going indoors to beat the last winter frosts, or so late that they swelter in the summer heat.
Sowing the Seed
For direct sowing, first prepare the soil by removing weeks and larger lumps of soil. Mix in some compost before you start, and use the back of metal rake or the like to level the ‘bed’. Use your finger, or if you like nice straight rows, press the handle of the rake into the soil to make a shallow row for planting the seeds.
Check the back of the packet to make sure your row is at the right depth. Sow the seeds at the recommended spacing. If your soil is light and lump-free, use the surrounding soil to carefully cover the seeds. If you’d like to give your seeds a bit of a headstart, cover them with a commercial seed-raising mix.
This contains extra nutrients to help get the seeds going. It’s also usually a different color to the surrounding dirt and is useful for helping you remember where you’ve planted.
When you water the seeds for the first time, use a gentle wide angled spray. Try to avoid any water hitting the ground with too much force, which might dislodge the seeds. Make sure they get enough water to penetrate quite deeply into the soil. In early spring, it’s unlikely they’ll need too many more waters before the seedlings emerge.
As the first seedlings begin to poke through the surface of the soil, thin them out. Crowded seedlings are unlikely to succeed, and although it might seem harsh, it will produce a better result for all the plants if you remove some of the unnecessary ones now.
Try to keep the seedlings weed free. Weeds create competition for nutrients and will steal the goodness in the soil from your seedlings. Also protect them from slugs, snails and birds.
After the seedlings have reached a height of about 2 inches, it’s time to start spreading mulch in between the rows. This will help keep the weeds down, will prevent loss of moisture and will improve the soil over time. Mulch includes just about any organic material.
Good examples are old hay, straw, wilted weeds, sugar cane trash, woodchips, leaf debris or bark. Inorganic mulches like black plastic, road gravel and small stones might look neater, but actually damage the soil and your chances of a successful vegetable gardens, so stay away from those.