Sowing seeds in the garden can be very time consuming. As a busy mom, you might be tempted to simply toss the seeds over the soil, but as you can imagine, broadcasting leads to poor distribution. Even carefully placing seeds in the ground often leads to unevenly spaced seeds planted at improper depths. If you have a large garden, manual seeding can become impractical. Fortunately, several affordable tools can significantly improve your seeding experience.
Several situations call for broadcasting seeding rather than planting in rows. Cover crops--especially vigorous growers such as oats or winter rye--grow well when broadcast and tilled into the soil. Fast-growing vegetables like radishes also tolerate broadcast seeding. If your garden is small, simply manually scattering the seeds for these crops might be a fun activity for the kids to help with. But if time is of the essence, consider renting or purchasing a hand-cranked seeder or ground-driven seeder. Both types have a rotating disc that spins seeds into a uniform distribution. The ground-driven types are powered by rotation of the wheels as you push the unit. These are better for large, relatively flat areas. The hand-cranked models are adequate for smaller areas, and they are superior for uneven ground -- it is difficult to push the wheeled types over bumpy soil.
These small, inexpensive devices make it easier to plant in rows and to sow seeds into flats for transplanting. A rotating wheel with holes of different sizes provides some control over the seeding rate, and the funnel-shaped spout gives you precise control over seed location. Hand seeders can be helpful, but manually planting if you're accustomed to planting seeds will likely be just as effective.
A jab planter can make it easier to sow large seeds such as corn, squash and beans. The African Conservation Tillage Network estimates that these simple tools can provide a four-fold increase in productivity, and they are especially helpful for gardeners who have trouble bending over to plant seeds by hand. Jab planters have a seed hopper at the top, a chute descending from the seed hopper, a depth-control shoe and a furrow-opening wedge at the bottom. The process of opening and closing the handles causes a seed to be dropped down the chute into the soil at the chosen depth.
Precision Seed Drills
Perhaps the most valuable seeding tools are push-operated seed drills. These simple yet effective tools integrate wheels to firm the soil and cover the seed, a seed hopper, some mechanism for precisely placing seeds of all different sizes and a furrow opener. Some let you set the planting depth, choose the proper seed plate, fill the hopper and push the unit down your row. Some thinning is usually necessary, but the results are impressive for such an affordable tool.