All About Planting Seeds in Your Vegetable Garden
Do you wish someone would tell you how deep and how far apart to plant your vegetable seeds? Common mistakes in the garden can be avoided if you plant your seeds correctly. They need the best start possible! Seeds need the best care you can give them. Here are the five basic needs that a seed needs in order to create a healthy plant that will reward you.
Seeds need this!
- Good soil
- Planted in the right season
- Planted at a depth that is best for that seed
- Planting distance between plants is healthy for growth
- Daily care for the seedlings as they emerge is important
Once you learn these principles, you can apply them for any seeds that you wish to plant. You’ll be an expert!
All veggies love soil that is loamy. But few of us have loamy soil. I have sandy soil, another person may have clay, another may be dealing with rocks. So what can you do?
All soils need care
Every type of soil needs to be cared for. Think soil as the mom that is carrying a child for nine months. Take care of the mom and you will have a healthy child. So, how do we take care of the soil? Start now and put aside veggie scraps make a compost pile so it will be ready next season. The compost will eventually be nourishment for your soil. Right now, you can add amendments such as bone meal, worm castings, and aged animal manure. You may even find compost that is ready to add now. Look for these items in your local box store, home improvement store, or farm supply store. Follow the directions on the bags. More is not better! Mix the amendments into the soil before planting.
Caution! If you purchased container garden soil, you probably don’t need to add anything the first year. I wouldn’t amend newly purchased soil because the extra fertilizers may burn your plants.
Plant in the Right Season
Researching First is of Utmost Importance
Find your local planting zone. A “zone” will help you determine what to plant now. Every state will have an agriculture website that will show you this information. Try searching on the web for a local university and add “planting zone” into your search field. Once you get to the site, it should lead you to a whole lot of information about gardening for your area. I bet you will find helpful charts that let you know the time frame to plant which kinds of seeds. I like charts! For example, here is a site that can be trusted for information and correct planting times for Florida locations: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021
Your Local Seed Rack
Please don’t buy seeds from a rack simply because you like that vegetable. Many of your favorites might not grow well in that season or even in your area! Box stores put up generic racks full of seeds that interest the whole nation. Do your research first and then you can buy from the rack with confidence.
Florida Garden Seeds
Based on more than 20 years of growing organically in Florida, I have extra information that can help you be successful in your gardening venture. If you want to know what seeds to plant in the Spring in a sub-tropic climate, I made an easy list for you here: https://seasonsofdevotion.com/seeds-for-a-spring-garden/
I also made a FREE PRINTABLE for subscribers to quickly find resources to purchase seeds from reputable companies. You’ll want to subscribe to have access to that and more!
Subscribers have access to my library full of freebies that will help your garden ventures, including a FREE cheatsheet that lists the best varieties for a successful Florida garden. Subscribe HERE.
How Deep Do I Plant My Seeds?
Here are two, just two, principles to remember!
- The size of the seed dictates how deep to plant it.
- The size of the seed planted dictates how to water it.
The First Principle: How Deep To Plant a Seed
The first principle is easy to remember. For example, a large bean seed is planted ½ inch deep. A tiny carrot seed is barely covered. It’s really that simple. One of the most common gardener mistakes is planting seeds too deep. The seeds can’t reach the surface and die underground. Then, the gardener says they don’t have a green thumb! Yes, you do! Just remember those 2 principles. The depth to plant the seeds is the length of the longest side of the seed. This holds true for all seeds. Large seeds are a bit more forgiving if you plant them up to 2 times their length but tiny seeds will only tolerate a “dusting” of soil to cover them. Isn’t that easy!
The Second Principle: How to Water Seeds After Planting Them
The second principle is also easy to remember too! The large seeds, such as beans and squash, can be watered directly from the hose with gentle watering. Once they get a few inches tall or long, overhead watering is fine. Tiny seeds, such as broccoli or carrots will need to be misted until they have their first true leaves. At that point, an extra gentle sprinkle can be used until they are several inches tall. Then you can allow an overhead sprinkler to water them.
For just a little
A garden journal is exactly what you need to keep track of what worked and what didn’t. All this is done for you! For just a little, you can get a printable document that’s got you covered from your seed wish list to your harvest records. There are 39 pages of charts, record keeping, garden map grids, and lots of pages for your garden journaling about the garden in general as well as the individual veggies and fruit that you are growing. It’s only $4.99! You can find out more details and order it here and get started right away. (A digital version is also available in the shop.)
How Far Apart Do I Plant My Seeds?
First, you will want to plant more than the number of plants that you want to grow. It’s not an exact science but keep the general rules in mind because some seeds will not germinate and the seeds that do come up will show you which ones are healthy. You will be keeping the healthiest ones and pulling or cutting off the weaker ones.
As a general rule, the distance between the growing plants depends on how big the plant is going to be when fully mature. The larger the plant, the further apart the seedlings need to be.
Spacing your plants
This is where your chart from the research will come in handy. The seed size does not dictate how far apart! Every veggie group is different. For your convenience, here is a quick reference for popular veggies.
- Corn, 8-12 inches apart
- Green Beans, Southern Peas, small Butter Beans, 3-4 inches apart minimum but 6 inches is ok too. I crowd these a little
- Large Butterbeans bush type, 4-6 inches apart, up to 9 inches apart
- Squash and Zucchini, 6-12 inches apart. I plant 4-6 in a circle and keep the best 2. Each circle is 12 inches apart. This is a little crowded-I just like to crowd these a little. You may prefer to plant them in a straight row, 12 inches apart.
- Cucumber, 4-8 inches apart. I plant 4-6 in a circle and keep the best 3-4.
- Tomatoes, plant small plants 12 inches apart. (Start tomato seeds in seed starting mix, 2 months prior to transplanting into the garden.)
Detailed Info for Spacing for Various Vegetable Plants, Alphabetically
- Beans can be as close as 3 inches apart with the exception of large lima beans which need to be 9-12 inches apart. Green beans can be planted as close as 3 inches apart, in rows 6 inches apart.
- Corn plants need to be 12-18 inches apart. Plant two seeds one inch apart, skip 12 inches and plant 2 more seeds one inch apart. You will be choosing the healthiest plant between the two and leave the healthy ones 12 inches apart. Place 2 seeds one inch apart, skip 12 inches, place 2 seeds, one inch apart, etc. until the row is complete. Cover 1 inch deep
- Cucumbers have the same rule as squash vines or bushes.
- Melons, all types, including cantaloupe, muskmelon, watermelon. Follow the rules as given for squash bush or vines.
- Okra is a small seed, but a large plant. Plant only ¼ inch deep but choose the healthiest plants to be 12 inches apart.
- Southern peas (all types) have the same rule as beans. This includes Black-eye peas, zipper peas, conch peas, and other varieties. Do not plant green peas in southern gardens at this time. They will grow best during our winter season.
- Peppers. I do not recommend planting peppers from seed at this time. Plant young pepper plants instead. Most pepper plants will be affected by our hot summer just like the tomato plants are. Start your seeds 2 months prior to this point, while it’s still winter. See note for tomatoes below.
- Potatoes. Purchase certified potatoes. I can’t emphasize this enough. Healthy looking potatoes from the store-you know, to save money, might be a temptation but give it a 50-50 chance of producing healthy, disease-free potatoes. I recommend drenching the soil first with Southern Ag’s Garden Friendly Fungicide (bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain D747) and also soak the cut pieces in a solution of the fungicide for an hour before placing into the soil. Bury your potatoes about 6-9 inches deep. The best time to plant potatoes is by Mid-February, but they should be ok if you plant in Mid-March.
- Squash bushes need 12-24 inches between them-on average. For “groups” (or beds), you can have 2 or 3 close in a “bed” but skip another 24 inches before planting 2-3 more. Or, space evenly at 12-18 inches apart.
- Squash vines need 6-12 inches between plants, depending on the size of your squash. The larger the squash, spaced farther apart. You may also plant them in groups of beds as described in squash bushes.
- Tomato or pepper seed, plant shallow. Remember the rule of the depth I described above. Warning if you live in a hot climate or sub-tropical zone! I do not recommend trying to grow tomatoes from seed at this time because the plant is prone to summer disease, sunburn, and the plant will not set fruit due to high temperatures. Tomato plants need 5-6 months of a growing season which, at this point, the plant will not have had time to develop the tomatoes and the yield will be poor if any. I’ve tried varieties that say they tolerate hot summers, but I haven’t found any that really do tolerate summers in central Florida. The only exception I have found, as of this update 2/25/2021, is the tiny Everglades tomato variety. I recommend that you plant young plants at this time. In other words, if you want to grow tomatoes (peppers and herbs), start them two months before your Spring date.
Grow Tomatoes Tutorial
To learn more details for growing tomatoes and how to plant a tomato plant, read my thorough, step-by-step tutorial, The Most Comprehensive Tomato Growing Guide There Is
Bonus Summer Growing!
Other seeds to plant for a Summer crop in the Deep South are peanuts and Seminole pumpkin. These amazing plants will produce throughout the entire summer. When space becomes available (after a harvest of one of your veggies), plant these in that place. The only precaution is that the soil must be able to drain quickly.
One more thing before you get your seeds!
Planting your seeds is actually several steps into the whole garden plan. Before you decide to buy seeds, ask yourself some questions first. Read this article so you can start off on the right garden path. 6 Important Questions to Ask Before You Plant That Will Make You a Successful Gardener.
Daily Care for Planted Seeds
How to Water Seeds and Seedlings
The size of the seed will dictate how to water.
Large seeds, such as corn, beans, and peas love a good soaking with a sprinkler or spray from a garden hose. It’s crazy simple-just hold your thumb over the end of the hose and make a spray! Or turn on a sprinkler.
The small seeds need a fine mist. You will need to buy a nozzle that will disperse the water into a mist. Water those teeeny seeds oh so gently! The act of watering will move enough soil particles over the seeds and they could get buried too deep, so easy, easy does it. FYI, those teeny little seeds are for Florida winter gardening. Other areas may be able to grow veggies that start with tiny seeds in the Spring.
How Often Do I Water?
Depending on your soil, you may need to water daily, even twice a day if your soil is sandy like mine where the water seeps on down and the top becomes sand again. Once your seeds are up and are “toddlers” who have sent roots down farther for water, you can spread mulch under the plants and you won’t have to water as often.
These five basic needs for your vegetable seeds will ensure that you will be picking home-grown veggies in no time!
Free cheatsheet for the best varieties and where to buy seeds online. Your subscription has the secret code to the library full of free workbooks.
I have lots more information about how to grow vegetables successfully. Simply hit the drop-down menu at the top labeled Grow Food.
Homeschoolers LOVE my Secret Inside Series. It’s a FREE botany unit studies that you kids will remember for the rest of their lives. Here is the link to the whole page that lists them all. Botany Archives
You are welcome to comment below so others can see the answer too. If you have a question, I’m sure others have the same question.
Veteran Homeschooler, avid gardener, and proud grandma
I believe that you can design a peaceful lifestyle while you homeschool, complete with a garden if you want, and meals that will make the best memories you ever could imagine!
I homeschooled seven kids through high school, starting them all with a lot of planned, hands-on activities. Then, I centered the subjects around the activities. That gave them lots of room for their natural curiosity to be satisfied as they learned about God’s world.
Let me help you teach kids, grow food, and stay calm!
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9 NLT