We’re all dreaming of fresh summer fruits and vegetables — what better inspiration for planning your kitchen garden? Last week we told you everything you need to know about sowing seeds indoors, but you can also start seeds directly into the ground outside. Read on for how-to tips!
First, it’s critical to know which climate zone you live in and the estimated date of the final frost. (See our Annual Harvest Calendar to find your zone.) The best plants for sowing outdoors are beans, corn, leafy greens, peas, root vegetables (especially carrots), and zucchini, but the ideal choices really depend on your climate zone and the length of your growing season. In general, larger seeds tend to do better than smaller seeds when planted directly into the ground.
1. Weed the area where you plan to plant, then loosen the soil with a shovel and work in an organic soil amendment. Water the area well a few days before planting; ideally, the soil will be moist but not wet when sowing your seeds. Next, using a stick or other tool, and following a north-south path, make furrows along your bed to the depth indicated on the seed packet (or, if you don’t have a seed packet, 4 times the diameter of a seed). If you want perfectly straight rows, use a yardstick or a board to mark a straight line. If you’re planting in a wide area and want to plant more than one row of seeds, space them 18 – 24 inches apart (note: this can vary depending on variety; check the instructions on your seed packet).
2. Scatter small seeds along the length of the furrow or place large seeds in the rows by hand, spacing them evenly according to the guidelines on the seed packet. Use a watering can with fine holes to thoroughly moisten the seedlings. Check the soil daily and water it, if necessary, to keep the soil evenly moist.
3. When the seedlings begin to sprout, continue to inspect them every day to be sure they’re thriving. Carefully thin out seedlings if they seem overcrowded to give them a good opportunity to establish themselves; if you wait too long, the plants will develop poorly, and it will be harder to remove individual plants.