Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
March, 2007
Regional Report

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Leafy greens are among the easiest -- and tastiest -- to seed directly in the garden.

Direct Seeding

While friends in other regions are busily sowing seeds indoors, we're planting seeds directly in the soil for our spring gardens. Sowing seeds for annual flowers and vegetables where they are to grow reaps rewards all season. Seeds are cheaper than plants except in rare cases, many more varieties are available as seed, and the process is as direct as its name. You don't have to set up lights, coddle seedlings, or fend off transplant shock.

Methods for Success
When you choose a site for direct seeding, work it well even if it's in an established bed. Turn the soil several times, add organic matter if needed, and rake it smooth before planting. Read the seed packet for advice about planting depth and spacing. Thinning is the most important part of growing from seed -- except perhaps for keeping the weeds down. Check the seed packet for information on the proper spacing of the plants and thin out the extras. Once the seedlings are up and established, mulch lightly around them. Water seedlings gently, using a watering can with a rose or a water breaker at the end of a garden hose.

To get a grip on tiny seeds, get a salt shaker and some sand. Mix the seed with the sand and sprinkle it out to avoid crowding or clumping as you plant the seed. Large seed with hard coats may need soaking for a few hours in warm water before planting to help break their coats.

If the weather is windy or especially dry, lay a board over the newly planted seed. Check daily and remove any such cover once the first seeds sprout. Watch for damping off, the fungus that can destroy seedlings of any sort. You'll know you're dealing with damping off if a stand of seedlings collapses suddenly. If snails or slugs are a problem in your beds, surround the seeded area with a barrier product or sprinkle a light layer of diatomaceous earth over the planting.

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