With the rising need to become more closely connected with our food source, many gardeners grow their own vegetables, fruits, and herbs. And really — what better way to ensure quality control than to grow your own healthy food? But there’s a previously little-known practice that is gaining in popularity as gardeners become more and more invested in their edible gardening ventures — that of the garden seed bed.
A seed bed is a small area of the garden that is set aside for starting young plants in preparation for transplanting to other parts of the garden. Having a separate seed bed allows you to use other parts of the garden for those larger plants that are nearly ready for harvest, allows you to keep gardening while amending the soil of larger beds, and requires less effort than starting seedlings in pots. Indeed, some crops like broccoli and cauliflower are often recommended for starting in seedbeds because they develop strong root structures.
So how to go about starting your own seed bed? It’s easy; just follow these steps!
1. Choose your site: An ideal spot is one that is a bit sheltered from winds but still receives adequate light, and is weed-free. A seed bed can also be started in a green house or hoop house.
2. Prepare the soil: The term is actually a “fine tilth,” which is a perfect soil structure for seeds resembling course breadcrumbs. Remove any weeds and debris from the soil, mix compost and extra soil together in a wheelbarrow, and add about 4″ of the mixture by the shovelful on top of the existing soil. Use the back of a hard rake to smooth out the soil mixture so it receives water evenly, and avoid treading on or compacting the soil.
3. Avoid these no-no’s: Don’t till up the soil several inches as this will only disturb weed seeds. Your seedlings will have shallow roots by the time they are transplanted and won’t need soil that is very deep anyway. No need to add enrichments to the existing soil as, again, the seedlings won’t be in this bed for their entire lifespan. Don’t work the soil when it is wet; allow it to dry out to avoid stickiness.
4. Make the seed bed “stale”: “Stale” refers to letting the seed bed sit for a minimum of 10 days before seeding. Fresh soil can attract flying insects which can cause problems to young seedlings. This additional time also gives you the opportunity to remove any stray weeds that pop up and compete with your seedlings.
5. Sow seeds per package directions: Each seed will have its preferred planting depth, so know what that is and stick to it. Give your new seedlings a bit of extra care and attention (just like young children) so they can grow into strong adult plants. Be aware of any pests, keep them consistently watered but not soggy, and stay on top of weeds.