Vegetable Seeding Techniques: Broadcasting, Hills, Drills

The following are three common techniques for sowing seeds.


To broadcast seeds, sprinkle them thinly over the entire planting area. Seeds that are quite fine and produce small plants, such as lettuce, carrots, and radishes, are often sown this way. After sowing, lightly press the seeds into the soil with a board then sift a little soil, sand or compost over the seeds.


“Hills” are not necessarily mounded. Seeds are planted in a circle about a foot in diameter. Usually from 3 to 5 seeds are planted in a group, with a considerable distance between hills. This is the traditional way to plant sprawling plants, such as cucumbers and winter squash, whose vines are trained away from the hill.

Corn is usually planted in hills of three plants; dense planting helps the pollen from the tassel to find its way to the silk to pollinate the ear. Planted in widely-spaced rows, the ears may not get enough pollen, and some kernels will not fill out properly.

Seeds also are sown in hills when the intention is to thin the group later to just one sturdy plant.


“Drill” is the farmer’s term for rows; plants are seeded in a straight line. For larger seed, which is planted from 1/2 inch to 2 inches deep, drag the corner of a hoe to make a furrow, using a board as a straight edge. Drop the seeds in the furrow and push soil back into the furrow to cover them.

For smaller seeds like lettuce and carrots, press the corner of a board into the soil to make a furrow about 1/2 inch deep. Sprinkle the seed, then cover with a trickle of sand. The sand makes a visible line so you can easily see where you’ve planted, it won’t crust when it dries as some soil do, and it doesn’t wash as easily as soil because the particles are larger.

Row planting allows individual plants maximum breathing room, which encourages their health and productivity. It is the best method for upright bushy plants that need good air circulation, such as tomatoes and zucchini.

Parallel rows are ideal when growing plants that need trellis or string supports, such as peas, and for sprawling plants. Make a tent, or an inverted V-shaped support, and grow the climbers up both sides.