What you’ll need
step 1: Prepare the Soil
Vegetables need the richest, best soil you can give them. Add lots of organic compost—from 2 to 4 inches—and dig it in well. Level the surface and rake it to remove all the rocks and clods from the top 2 inches.
step 2: Decide on a Planting Pattern
Vegetable seeds can be broadcast or planted in rows or hills. Broadcasting works well for vegetables that will be harvested very young, such as curly cress or mesclun.
Vining plants and corn are often planted in hills. A “hill” is not a mound, but just a circle of plants. Usually 3 plants are left in a hill after thinning.
Other garden vegetables are planted in rows. The seed packet will tell you how far apart in the row the plants should be, and how far apart the rows should be.
step 3: Plant Large Seeds
Large seeds like corn, beans and squash are planted about 2 inches deep. To plant them in a row, lay down a board or tie a string between two stakes to mark the row. Drag the corner of a hoe down the row to make a little ditch (called a drill by farmers) about 2 inches deep. The hoe will pull the soil into a mound on one side of the drill.
Drop the seeds into the drill one at a time, spaced about half the distance recommended on the seed package. After the seeds have germinated, you will go back the remove seedlings from crowded places with a pair of scissors. Since all the seeds don’t germinate, this method gives you the most complete stand.
With the back of a garden rake, drag the little mound of soil into the drill to cover the seeds. Press the soil down over the drill to compress it slightly; the compression helps water move by capillary action from deeper in the soil to keep the seeds moist.
step 4: Plant Small Seeds
Make a drill for small seeds with the corner of a board. Press the board into the soil about 1/4 inch deep. Tear the corner off the seed packet and tap the packet to shake a few seeds at a time into the drill. It’s easy to sow small seeds too close together; be careful to space them correctly. To make the spacing easier, mix the seeds with a little sand and trickle the mix into the drill.
Now fill in the drill with sand, covering the seeds. The sand makes the row easier to see in the garden, and prevents crusting, which is a problem in some types of soil. You don’t need to press the soil down because the board you used to make the drill did that already.
If the weather is hot and dry, shade the seed row by laying a board on two bricks above the row. Remove the board as soon as the seeds begin to germinate.
step 5: Planting in Hills
Seeds planted in hills are always large. Planting them is about as easy as it gets. Place the seeds where you want them (about twice as many as you want plants) and push each into the soft soil with your finger. Use a knuckle as a depth gauge to plant them at the proper depth. Wipe your hand across the soil to seal the holes, and you are finished.
step 6: Broadcasting
Broadcasting works best with vegetables that will be harvested with a pair of scissors while they are very young. The seeds can be very close together because the plants won’t get large enough to crowd and compete with one another. Seeds that are broadcast are usually small.
Press down the area to be broadcast with a board. Lay the board on the soil and step on it to compress the soil slightly. Mix the seeds with sand and sprinkle them across the area. The sand makes it easy to see how thickly they have been spread.
Cover the seeds by sifting 1/4 inch of sand or compost onto them. If the weather is hot and dry, scatter a few handfuls of straw on the bed, just enough to shade the soil without hiding it.