Direct sowing is just planting your flower and vegetable seeds directly in the garden rather than starting seeds indoors and planting seedlings. There are a number of reasons that make direct sowing a good idea and some that make direct sowing a bad idea. Use the information on your seed packets to help you to decide how, when and where to sow your seeds.
The first consideration is how long does it take for the plant to grow from a flower or vegetable seeds into a producing plant? When will you pick your first flower or your first tomato from the time you plant the seed? In the case of a zinnia, it is a matter of weeks. In the case of a tomato, it is several months. If you live in the north, chances are frost will kill your tomato plant before you get a single ripe tomato if you direct sow. You can direct sow the zinnia, but you will have to start your tomato seeds indoors a couple of months before the last frost and transplant the seedlings into the garden. The seed packet will tell you how long before the last frost to plant your seeds.
The next consideration is whether this plant will transplant well. Some plants just don’t like to be disturbed once they are planted. Most root crops fall into this category. Direct sow vegetables can be anything from carrots to beets. Another example is the beautiful silver-grey poppy. If you want this flower in your garden, the best technique is to direct sow. It really doesn’t like having its roots disturbed.
The final consideration is whether you will gain by starting the vegetable seeds indoors. Plants started indoors will need to be hardened off once they are moved outdoors. This allows the young plants to adjust to the increased light from the sun, the movement from the wind and the variation in air temperature. This takes several days to a week. Some plants are stressed by this and will need time to recover. By the time they are adjusted, the direct sown vegetable seed has caught up to the seedlings, and you will not have gained an advantage by starting the vegetable seeds indoors.
When you are ready to direct sow your flowers and vegetable seeds, there are steps you can take to ensure success. You might want to delay planting if the forecast is for extreme weather in the next couple of days. All your work is for naught if the seeds are washed away during a storm. Also, check your last frost date in your grow zone before you plant. Seedlings are very tender and will be unable to survive a spell of cold weather.
Before you plant, prepare the garden soil. Amend the soil with compost so that your plants will be off to a great start. Be sure to plant in a weed-free garden. You will likely remove several seedlings if you try to remove a dandelion after the flower or vegetable seeds have germinated. If you are new to gardening, it will be easy to mistake a new seedling from a weed sprout. Don’t forget to use row markers to identify what you plant in each row or area. Each plant has its own germination time, and it will help if you know for sure what you planted where. Don’t count on your memory. Tip: If your vegetable seeds are for climbing vegetables like peas or pole beans, establish your trellis or fence that they will climb on before you plant the seeds. You won’t want to disturb the plants once they come up, and they will need something to climb on right away.
Check the seed package for how deep to plant the seeds. A general rule of thumb is to plant three times deeper than the size of the seed. Some seeds need to be well covered and won’t germinate if exposed to the sun, while others will only germinate if exposed to the sun. Your seed packet should tell you if there is either consideration.
Once your flower or vegetable seeds are planted, keep the ground moist. Be especially careful to prevent the soil from drying out if there is a heat wave or if the weather is windy. The wind can dry out the soil very quickly.
Keep a close eye on your young seedlings and it won’t be long before they are plants that can stand up to most conditions. Then, all you need is patience while waiting for the harvest.