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Beginner's Guide To Gardening: Sowing Seeds

Seeds Of Success

In the first post, we discussed where to build your garden, what to plant, and what kind of dirt you'll need.

Now it's time to address those delightfully colored seed packets clenched tightly in your hand: it's planting time! This is one of the best times in the garden, second only to harvest.

Sowing seeds is a wonderful step in the process because it's filled with the thrill of anticipation, a dash into uncharted territory, and the belief that all things are possible.

You are the master of your garden. You control what grows where and when. You are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the plants in your garden. Sure Mother Nature does this all the time, but now it's your turn to play a more proactive role.

We will begin by discussing the three factors that affect how you sow your seeds.

#1: Planting Depth

A good rule of thumb is to consider the size of your seed. Tiny seeds like carrots, lettuce, and broccoli are planted very shallow, about 1/4 inch deep. If you plant them too deep, they might not break through all that dirt to reach the surface.

A step up from these are eggplant, squash, pepper, and beets. These require a bit more coverage, or about 1/2 inch depth.

Moving up the size scale, you have other seeds like beans and corn, which prefer to be buried in about one inch of soil.

What about potatoes? They love to be underground and prefer a depth of about two inches. The same goes for  garlic. This depth helps them burrow in for the long cold winter.

#2: Spacing

Some plants like to snuggle and be close while others need their space. Plants also have their friends and their foes, and it would behoove you to know who's who. Companion planting is the idea of strategically planting certain fruits and vegetables close to one another in order to optimize natural growing conditions.

For example, if you know dill attracts the hornworm, and you know hornworms can devour a tomato plant down to bare stem, you are probably not going to plant these two next to one another. How about rosemary and cabbage? Rosemary acts as a natural repellent for the cabbage moth, who just so happen love to eat cabbage plants. Corn and beans are great friends, as corn provides the trellis for beans to climb. Garlic repels aphids, while tarragon seems to disgust most insects.

Take a look at your selection of seeds and do the research. It will save you a basket full of heartache later on.

#3: Time

While some climates allow for an extended growing season, most plants still prefer certain growing conditions to thrive. Cabbage, for instance, prefers it cool or even a tad nippy. Southern summers are no place for most cabbage plants, though as with anything in life, there are exceptions to the rule.

Play it safe your first time. Read the seed packet labels and sow accordingly. Later, we'll teach you about tricking your plants into believing all sorts of things!

Time also applies to time within each section or row, otherwise known as stagger planting.

For example, many tomatoes mature between 55-80 days. If your first planting date is May 1 and your growing season effectively ends in October, then you might consider planting first week of May, third week of May, early to mid June, and end of June or beginning of July. By staggering your planting dates, you'll stagger your harvest, giving you an endless stream of tomatoes fresh from the vine while ensuring your last batch is mature prior to fall's frosty nip.

More: Now that we've sowed the seeds, it's time to fertilize the garden.

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