5 Keys to Successful Seeding - Ernst Seeds
June 25, 2024

5 Keys to Successful Seeding

10a_Broadcast Seeding

Everything that grows must do so with a solid foundation underneath. For crops and plants, this means proper seeding techniques.

Successful seeding ensures that your plants have the best possible start to life. It leads to healthier and more vigorous growth, higher yields, and more efficient use of your resources.

On the other hand, poor seeding can have several negative outcomes that can impact the sustainability of your garden or farm.

To help you avoid these negative impacts, we’ve put together today’s guide. In it, you’ll learn:

  • Why seeding is so important for plants and crops.
  • The 5 keys to seeding success.
  • Some easy ways for gardeners, farmers, and conservationists to achieve our 5 keys.

Before we get into the tips, you should understand a bit about why seeding is so important to plants and crops.

A Quick Introduction to Seeding Success

Whether you’re cultivating acres of crops or nurturing a small garden, the basic principle of seeding success remains the same: good seed to soil contact without the seed being too deep. This leads to:

A Strong Foundation for Growth

Proper seeding techniques ensure that seeds are placed at the right depth and have adequate contact with the soil, which is essential for germination and root development.

Efficient Use of Resources

A well-established meadow makes the most efficient use of water, nutrients, and other resources, leading to better plant performance and reduced waste. Proper seeding is key to this efficiency.

Environmental Sustainability

Good seeding helps maintain soil health, reduces erosion, and minimizes the need for chemical inputs, contributing to a more sustainable landscape. 

Now that you have some idea of the many benefits of proper seeding let’s talk a little about how to recognize if your seeding practices need work.

The 5 Keys to Seeding Success

Proper seeding techniques can be condensed into 5 major keys: optimal seed-to-soil contact, appropriate soil preparation, the right seeding method, timing, and moisture management.

#1: Optimal Seed-to-Soil Contact

Optimal seed-to-soil contact ensures that seeds can absorb the necessary moisture to begin germination.

To ensure optimal seed-to-soil contact, do the following:

Always Prepare a Firm, Clean Seedbed: Control pre-existing undesirable vegetation and remove thatch and debris. Break up clumps to ensure the soil surface is smooth and firm.

Ensure the Correct Seeding Depth: Plant seeds at a depth that allows them to access moisture without being buried too deep, typically between ¼ to ½ inch.

Use the Right Equipment: Ensure your seeding equipment is calibrated correctly to place seeds at the appropriate depth and spacing.

#2: Soil Testing

Soil testing and preparation helps plants grow by ensuring the soil has the right pH and nutrient levels. Proper soil conditions support robust plant growth.

For optimal soil conditions, Ernst Conservation Seeds recommends following Penn State’s Soils Laboratory’s recommendations for CRP Warm Season Grass plantings.

  • The soil pH should be between 5.5 and 7.0.
  • Magnesium (Mg) should be 60 ppm.
  • Phosphorus (P) should be 15 to 30 ppm.
  • Potassium (K) should be 50 to 100 ppm.
  • We counsel against applying nitrogen (N) as it encourages growth of weeds.

For precise soil testing results, you can obtain professional tests from a lab for affordable fees.

#3: Use the Right Seeding Method

Choosing the right seeding method will minimize labor while ensuring a comfortable level of plant spacing and seed depth.

For Small-Scale Landscapes: Broadcast seeding is straightforward and effective without requiring specialized equipment. To ensure uniform distribution, mix a filler such as kitty litter with your seed. The correct rate of kitty litter is 1.1 lbs/1,000 sq ft – the weight of the seed/1,000 sq ft. After broadcasting your seed, firm the seed into the soil by running over the seed bed with a lawn roller or, if the plot is small, by walking two passes over it.

For Large-Scale Landscapes: No-till seeding and drill seeding are great for maintaining soil structure and ensuring precise planting. However, they require specialized equipment that comes with a learning curve. For planting native meadow mixes, there needs to be a fluffy seed box with stir bars to prevent bridging of seed and picker wheels to draw the seed out of the seed box.

For Difficult-to-Seed Slopes and Damp Soils: Hydroseeding can be used when a site is difficult to plant due to slope or dampness of soil. When using this method, we recommend a two step process where all the seed is applied with 500 lbs/acre of hydromulch in a first pass with 1,000 lbs/acre of hydromulch applied in a second pass.

In general, remember to pick a method that makes the most sense for your goals and budget. Experiment with different methods or a combination of techniques to get the desired results.

#4: Timing Your Seeding

Timing your seeding properly takes advantage of optimal soil temperature and moisture levels.

A major factor in successful seeding is avoiding planting frost-sensitive plants too early or harvesting too late. When it comes to frost dates, don’t be afraid to seek knowledge from local experts. No one will be more aware of the first and last frost dates in your area than experienced local gardeners or agricultural extension services.

#5: Moisture Management

When soil temperatures are favorable, appropriate soil moisture allows seeds to germinate and the plants to become established.

 Test According to Your Needs: You can check soil moisture by simply observing the color of the soil or inserting a finger about 1-2 inches in. However, if you want more precise results, you can invest in a moisture meter or tensiometer.

Increase Moisture with Watering & Mulch: Watering more thoroughly but less frequently, can encourage deeper root growth. Organic mulch (such as straw) can also reduce evaporation and keep your soil cooler.

Monitor Your Moisture with a Rain Gauge: All irrigation events should be monitored with a rain gauge and should be equivalent to one inch of rain. 

For spring & summer plantings, if rainfall is not regular, we recommend watering:

  1. The day of planting.
  2. A week after planting.
  3. Every one to two weeks until regular rainfall begins. 

Irrigation may be skipped when the site receives one inch of rain in a given week.

Use Ernst Seeds for Seeding Success

Proper seeding doesn’t just set down a firm foundation for your next growing season. It can also help ensure seeding success and a healthy and sustainable environment for years to come.

If you’re going through the trouble of optimizing the depth, soil, timing, and moisture of your seeding, don’t let it go to waste with low-quality seeds.

For 60 years, Ernst has been supplying the highest quality seeds to farmers, restoration practitioners, landscape contractors, and gardeners in eastern North America. By sharing our extensive knowledge and experience, we aim to help our customers establish successful meadows that can support critical populations of bees, birds, and butterflies, and other wildlife. If you have questions for our plant experts or want to learn more about our seeds, contact Ernst today and let us know what you’re working on.

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