When it comes to planting small seeds, I find that making a mountain out of a mole hill can really make things easier. I’m talking pelleted seeds, a rather new technology that has come around in the past couple decades.
Pelleted seeds are coated with inert material to make them easier to handle, uniform in size and highly visible. This is especially helpful with small seeds such as carrots and lettuce.
In addition to increasing the size and handling ease of small seeds, I also find that the white color of the inert coating makes them more visible, which is important on crops where proper spacing is paramount. Typically, when sowed directly in the garden, carrots and onions require thinning. Having a large, tangible seed pellet makes thinning obsolete as proper spacing is easily achieved.
For those worried about the composition of the actual pelleting material, certified organic pellets are readily available.
Pelleted seeds are typically marketed to commercial growers. Although pelleted seeds sell at a higher price than non-pelleted, if you are willing to buy packets of 1,000 seeds, the actual per seed cost is still far cheaper than buying the typical seed packets that contain a few dozen seeds. Crops like carrots and onions beg to be planted by the hundreds anyway, and the container of a thousand seeds will likely stay viable for years.
Although pelleted seeds are purported to be a boon for those using a mechanical seeder, I have found that my Earthway walk-behind seeder gets the pellets stuck in the seed plate, causing them to implode. Because of this, I plant my pelleted seeds by hand. The time I save in thinning or trying to use a tweezers to grasp a carrot seed more than makes up the lack of the mechanical seeder.
I only use pelleted seeds for a select handful of my crops: onions, carrots, beets and basil. I have a handful of homemade “dibbles” that I’ve made. I take a scrap piece of 1x2, cut it 12-16-inches and then pound in nails with large heads at the spacing I want to sow my seeds. I have dibbles with 1-inch spacing, 2-inch spacing and 4-inch spacing. After preparing my garden beds I wet them lightly and then use the dibble to make the holes for my seeds at an even spacing. Again, the white color makes them highly identifiable and before I cover the seeds with soil I can easily make sure that I didn’t miss any plantings.
With popularity increasing, many seed companies now produce and ship pelleted seeds. I have chosen to source mine from Johnny’s Select Seeds in Maine, primarily because I’ve found their seeds to have a high germination rate, and because they offer organic pellet coatings.