This time of year is paradise for home vegetable gardeners, when the hard work of preparing garden beds is over and it is time to plant.
To ensure your hard work pays off with a fruitful harvest, follow a few vegetable seed-planting tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension expert Bob Westerfield.
Directly into the soil
Vegetables like beans, okra and cantaloupe can be planted directly in home gardens as seeds. Westerfield suggests presoaking the seeds in water over night for better germination.
“Lettuce, which is planted in the fall or early spring, can be seeded directly without presoaking,” he said. “Just remember to lightly rake in lettuce seeds into the soil.”
Like any construction project, Westerfield says a soundly built garden begins with a well thought-out plan and “good straight rows.” He recommends using contractor’s string to mark your rows.
Leave enough space for mature plants
Remember to read seed packages thoroughly to make sure you leave enough space for your plants to grow.
“Squash will need 3 feet between each plant as they grow large like an open umbrella,” he said.
Planting from seeds involves a lot of getting up and bending down down and repetitive motion. Westerfield suggests investing in a seed planter that spaces seeds and then covers them with soil.
“They cost about $100 and the interchangeable wheels adjust to different seed sizes,” he said.
If a seed planter doesn’t fit your budget, you may want to try Westerfield’s inexpensive method. He stands straight, holds a piece of PVC pipe and drops the seeds down to the soil through the pipe.
“This way you don’t have to bend over and pay for it the next few days with a sore back,” he said.
Cover them up
Once the seed is planted, firm the soil with something like the flat side of a hoe. This will help with germination.
“You should lightly rake lettuce seeds or just pat them with your hand,” Westerfield said.
The rule of thumb for planting seeds is to plant them twice as deep as the size of the seed. Cucumbers and squash are typically planted in mounds or hills. Westerfield recommends planting more seeds to a hill than you need and thinning them down to three as the seeds germinate.
To help prevent disease and nematode problems, don’t plant the same family of vegetables in the same location.
“Peppers and tomatoes are in the same family and squash and cucumbers are in the same family,” he said.
To extend your vegetable harvest, Westerfield suggests staggering planting times.
“By planting new seeds every couple of weeks, you can have corn and cucumbers coming in at different times,” he said.
For more information on planting home vegetable gardens, contact your local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.