Direct Seeding of Fall Vegetable Crops
Gardeners should seed some vegetables directly into the
garden and thin them to a proper stand at a later date. The
thinned plants can be planted in other areas of the garden
or in areas where perhaps the stand is relatively poor.
How to seed directly into the garden and get the plants
to come up to a proper stand is the problem. One obvious method
would be to provide a better environment in which the seed
can germinate and thereby grow into a healthy and vigorous
seedling. Believe it or not, this can be done in most areas
of Texas by simply modifying the seeding area right in the
A simple way to do this is to mark off the desired rows
in the garden. In most areas of Texas, it is important that
the soil be bedded prior to planting. This is especially true
in fall gardens and in areas where excess rain occurs during
the fall gardening season. After the garden has been bedded
and the rows marked off, take a hoe handle or stick and make
a seed furrow. The seed furrow will vary in depth but, generally,
is usually ¾- to 1-inch deep. Next comes a very important
step. After the seed furrow has been made, take a watering
can or water hose and apply water DIRECTLY into the seed furrow.
Apply sufficient water to wet the loosened soil to a depth
of 2 or 3 inches. In some cases this may necessitate that
you apply the water several times rather than one single application.
Always plant more seed than needed. After the water has
soaked in, scatter the seed evenly along the furrow. Soaking
the large seed in water overnight will help get the germination
process started. After the seed has been sown, instead of
covering them with garden soil, use a material such as compost,
potting soil, peat moss or vermiculite. By using a media like
compost as a covering material, you will provide a better
environment in which the seed can germinate and grow. Problems
associated with soil crusting and resulting poor aeration
will be eliminated.
If you use a light-colored material, the seeding area will
be cooler. With a material like compost, depth of seeding
is still important but not critical. Small seed planted a
little too deep will still come up. Within a few days, depending
on the crop planted, the seed should germinate and begin to
emerge. It is especially important at this time that you do
not allow the soil to dry out. Additional water should be
applied as needed.
Once the plants have emerged, you might consider applying
a protective shade or cover on the west side of the row to
protect the plants from the intensive summer sun. This protection
can be in the form of a board, cardboard, or shade?type cloth.
Once the plants are an inch or two tall they should be thinned
to the proper stand.
Gardeners always wonder what vegetables should be transplanted
and what should be seeded. As mentioned, tomatoes, pepper
and eggplant MUST be transplanted now. Crops such as broccoli,
Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower can be transplanted
for early harvest and to avoid the cost of expensive hybrid
seed. These crops may also be seeded directly into the garden
area now since they can tolerate frost and are relatively
When planting seed directly into the garden, gardeners customarily
plant a single row on each raised bed. To follow the advice
of country music singer Barbara Mandrell, "Planting (or
was it Sleeping?) Single in a Double Bed" is wasteful.
Why not plant double in a single bed? Planting double in a
single bed simply involves planting two rows of seed side-by-side
on each bed of soil. This practice is not new. Commercial
growers have been successfully planting two rows of seed on
each bed for years.
The logic of planting double in a single bed is obvious.
The soil has already been meticulously fertilized so why not
produce as many vegetables as possible from the space available.
If a drip irrigation system is being used, simply place the
drip hose between the two rows planted in the same bed. With
the same amount of water that would normally be used, you
will produce twice as many vegetables.
If the two rows per bed system is so wonderful, why isn't
everyone using it? First of all, only certain vegetables that
produce small plants can be used. These include such vegetables
as beets, carrots, lettuce, onions, parsley, radishes and
turnips that should have plants spaced two inches apart.
Beans, garlic and spinach should have plants spaced four
Chard, collards, kohlrabi and mustard should have plants spaced
six inches apart.
Vegetables which produce larger plants such as broccoli,
Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and pepper should be spaced
24 inches apart can also be planted using the two-rows-in-a-single-bed
technique if plants are staggered. Plants that require more
than a 24-inch spacing should be avoided when using this double-row
Gardeners must also realize that judicious use of water
and periodic (every two weeks) side dressing with a rapid-release,
Winterizer-type ratio fertilizer (3-1-2 such as 15-5-10) must
be used with this system to insure maximum yields. Weed control
in the space between plants that are planted double in a single
bed will be more tedious during the first weeks of establishment.
As crops mature, and compete with weeds for nutrients and
sunlight, weeds will become less of a problem.
Mandrell's concept of planting single in a double bed may
be an accepted technique for some gardeners, but the adventurous
types will try the more productive practice of planting double
on a single bed. Regardless of how you do it, DO IT NOW to
insure a fall gardening success!
For a direct-seeding chart for fall planting, see: