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Broadcast Seeding and Plant Spacing

Matt Baker


Joined: Dec 19, 2011
Posts: 38
I am wondering what unexamined advantages exist by broadcasting seed versus mechanical methods.

At first glance, broadcasting seems inefficient: Too many seeds compete for resources and seed is wasted because many will not have the resources to develop efficiently. On the other hand, nature seems to use non-mechanical ways to plant seeds, and has been planting seeds for a few hundred million years longer than homo-sapiens, and perhaps we could learn something from this.

So I am trying to think of possible advantages to broadcasting:

- Nature selects the best seeds for you; the most potent seeds will outcompete the less potent.
- Diversity of species, developmental stages, rates of growth and spacing provides more edge?



Kelowna, BC
Zone 5
Nicole Castle


Joined: Jul 18, 2012
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
It depends on the plant and what you want out of it. I can tightly pack radish seeds all I want and get lovely healthy tops, but if I want to eat the roots I need to give them some space, either with the initial planting or by thinning.

Not all plants reseed themselves the same way. Some seeds require light to germinate, so need to be on top of the soil. Some require the opposite. Some need to be deposited in a little package of fertilizer, some don't. Some plants produce a huge amount of seed and have failure rates which are not acceptable as part of human cultivation. Some want a cover of leaves on top of them through the winter.

So I think you really need to look at how the plant reproduces itself, and then mimic those conditions. In the case of something which has very poor success rates (anything which makes a ton of seed), you have to mimic the ideal condition.
James Colbert


Joined: Jan 02, 2012
Posts: 232
    
    6
For my fall garden I am experimenting with broadcasting all of my seed except for large seeds like peas and beans which don't find their way through my mulch. Those is just poke in through the mulch at random places. So far it seems to work fine. I don't think I will thin my seedlings either. I remember Paul mentioning something about the best survive and thrive the rest were not meant to live. Proper broadcasting can also help with seed distribution.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
Some of my favorite benefits from broadcast seeding is no thinning, so when most people sow carrots like it says and then they have to thin them out. Seems to me both waste seed to some extent but one requires much less work. If you get your plant to location right most of your broadcasted seeds will germinate giving high crop yields.

Another benefit I like is the plant gets to choose when it wants to grow. An example being winter sown spring crops or plants. They choose when conditions are ruggedly germination not the farmer. Seeds should be tossed around when the previous years crop would have dropped it seed.

Eventually plants self seed and then with good management you get the best results.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Matt Baker


Joined: Dec 19, 2011
Posts: 38
Seeds should be tossed around when the previous years crop would have dropped it seed.


I've thought about this too but never tried it. This is the first time I've heard anyone say they've done it. Makes perfect sense to me. Why not seed all plants in the fall when the seeds naturally fall to the ground.

Not all plants reseed themselves the same way


This is also true. I will take this into account when I'm making my seed mixes.
Nicole Castle


Joined: Jul 18, 2012
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
Matt Baker wrote:Makes perfect sense to me. Why not seed all plants in the fall when the seeds naturally fall to the ground.


You can, but you will suffer losses from rotting, premature germination (particularly if you have a mild fall), being eaten by rodents and birds and other causes. Remember, a plant may drop thousands of seeds but only 2 or 3 seeds turn into new plants.

To me, that's not an acceptable success rate for something I am deliberately trying to get established; seeds are expensive. On the other hand, not all seeds are necessarily healthy and will make good plants. So I comprise -- I collect and keep the seeds under good conditions during the off season, plant extras when I want them to germinate and then thin out the poorly performing seedlings. (Although sometimes the slugs and such do the thinning for me.)
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
Seeds are only expensive if you buy them, which you should only be doing once. After that point seeds should be saved and one plant can produce thousands of seeds. I have 10k+ kale seeds from just three plants.

When the birds and false weather kill most seeds. those were the weaklings or the ones unfit for your climate. Over time the strongest will survive and reproduce that do very well on your land.

Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
Matt keep in mind not all plants drop their seed in the fall, it's best to know the natural cycle of your crop. Some drop seed mid summer like the brassicas and spring flowering greens.
Rick Larson


Joined: Aug 04, 2012
Posts: 210
Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
I broadcasted buckwheat, winter wheat, and clover seed this year. Just small plantings. It is a skill to release the seed on making a more even distribution. I bet some of you would be expert with some practice, you can even start a guild!


Soaking up information.
Eric Thompson


Joined: Apr 23, 2011
Posts: 212
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
Although it's true that broadcasting follows nature's way, keep in mind that nature's expectation is often to throw out a few thousand seeds to get just a few living examples the next year. Usually we want to do much better than that and "assist" nature's way by replicating conditions that produce success with much higher percentages. In my experience, that always involves getting at least a little soil on top of seeds that I want in good numbers - usually through raking, but sometimes through "alternative" methods like lawnmowing or chicken scratching.
Matt Baker


Joined: Dec 19, 2011
Posts: 38
I'd like to see an instructive video on broadcast seeding. Nothing on youtube yet. I'd make one but I haven't done enough broadcasting yet to set a good example.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 893
    
  17
We seed almost exclusively by broadcasting by hand on about 70 acres of pasture. This is both out in the main pastures to adjust plants and in the winter paddocks for annual plantings. It works very well for us. We use frost seeding, mob seeding and rain seeding. See:

http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2010/09/15/frost-seeding/
Matt Baker


Joined: Dec 19, 2011
Posts: 38
Impressive. I also like the comment on your site about snow seeding. I agree with others that seed is expensive. So you may want to start saving seed for a few years, being sure to save the survivors of your initial gene pool. Then take the seed from the survivors and toss it out there using various methods to see what works best in your area.
James Colbert


Joined: Jan 02, 2012
Posts: 232
    
    6
When broadcasting seeds I think it is important to be aware of succession. Broadcasting tomato seeds or melons seeds on land covered with weeds and without organic matter will result in poor results. Broadcasting clovers, mustards, kale, turnip, daikon, alfalfa, fava beans and buckwheat first will yields better results. You can also add a few weaker veggies like carrots, but most of your plants early on will be there to build soil. Luckily many of these plants are edible and tasty, they are also cheap to buy in bulk. Check out peaceful valley for bulk, kale, mustard, daikon, etc. You want to start with hardy plants and then progress to the more demanding plants.
Rick Larson


Joined: Aug 04, 2012
Posts: 210
Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
Eric Thompson wrote:Although it's true that broadcasting follows nature's way, keep in mind that nature's expectation is often to throw out a few thousand seeds to get just a few living examples the next year. Usually we want to do much better than that and "assist" nature's way by replicating conditions that produce success with much higher percentages. In my experience, that always involves getting at least a little soil on top of seeds that I want in good numbers - usually through raking, but sometimes through "alternative" methods like lawnmowing or chicken scratching.


Right. I use a large rake and tap the head on the ground - with the handle perpendicular to the ground - both pushing the seeds in and puffing up a little ground over to cover. But I have sandy loam soil and broadcast when the gound is dry a day before rain. Course, this would take a lot of time to do 70 acres!
 
 
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