Tonight I made my first outdoor sowing of the new season when I stuck a couple of rows of beetroot into my veg patch. Being big seeds with good germination, I’ve found beets very easy to grow, so I always sow directly. However, as I sowed this most reliable of crops, I realised something: I hardly sow anything direct anymore.
Aside from beets, the only other veg I could think of that I sow straight into the ground were radishes, the odd row of chard, and a few carrots. That’s it, which struck me as fairly odd given the amount of vegetables I normally grow each year.
Sowing Directly – The Tradition
At heart, I’m an old romantic. I do love the idea of raking a fine tilth and popping my seeds into the soil along a neat string line, but truth be told my results have never been much good. I know plenty of people who still enjoy sowing like this, but I can’t help think it makes veg growing life quite a lot harder.
Review on Sowing Directly
The Olden Days of the “Sow Directly” Technique
I used to sow lots of seeds direct, including peas, runner beans, mangetout, cucumbers, squashes, French beans, carrots, parsnips, and courgettes but gradually I’ve moved all these and more into pots of some type, and transplanted the seedlings onto the patch when the seedlings reach a good size.
Reasons for Change in Sowing Technique
This steady change in tactics has happened for a couple of reasons. I can sow undercover in the greenhouse and get a head start, before hardening off the seedlings and planting out. However, the main reason is that I’m very lazy when it comes to preparing good sowing soil.
I know that’s a terrible confession, but I found that sowing in pots was so much easier, and also improved my germination rates to the point where I could actually grow things with moderate success. For me, this was a much more reliable method of sowing, and took away a lot of the problems, like finding a way of getting the seeds to grow through that annoying crustiness you get on top of the soil when the weather is very dry.
These days, I even sow tricky transplanters like lettuces, carrots, and parsnips into half toilet rolls and risk unsettling them during relocation rather than sowing direct. This is useful for controlling weeds too, as I find small seedlings such as carrots get overpowered by weeds. This method also makes spotting tiny seedlings much easier.
The Downsides of Sowing Seeds Directly
Although I find sowing in pots is a lot less stressful, there are downsides. For example, I talked last week about the amount of money I spend on multipurpose compost, but sowing as much as I do in pots, then I’ve got to expect an emptier wallet. I wouldn’t spend anywhere near as much if I sowed more veg directly into the ground.
Sow Directly: Should you do it?
I enjoy looking back at how my growing techniques have changed over the last five years, and this is probably the area where I’ve instigated the most change. My plot can look quite bare at stages whilst it awaits delivery of veg for planting, but then again when the plants do go in, they’re neat and straight with no gaps. Plus, I absolutely love the look of my greenhouse this time of year, with pots and seedlings crammed into every corner.
For now, I’m very much an exclusive pot sower. Beetroots aside, of course.