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Dibbling in dirt; or, sowing seed.

April 11, 2010

One bored day this winter, after I ordered seeds but before I could do anything resembling growing them, I decided to try and do something about a difficulty I ran into last year: sowing seed.

Part of the problem was impatience–some of the seeds in question are so damn tiny (yes, I’m looking at you, carrots and lettuce) that after carefully sowing several dozen, I just got sick of bending over for so long and having seeds sticking in clumps to my muddy fingertips. So I’d get careless and just kind of sprinkle them down into the furrow I’d made, cover them up and be done with it. I’d get a second round of grumbling when I had to thin out what felt like thousands of wasted seedlings, then a third round when it became clear that even that amount of thinning wasn’t adequate and my plants ended up all stunted.

Researching methods of sowing seed had led me to the following solutions:

  • making a seed tape. This seemed like a labor-intensive process, since it involves putting down seeds on a biodegradable paper strip at just the right interval, which you then roll out into your planting furrow. The idea is that because seeds are spaced properly, there is less need for thinning and plants thrive better out of the starting gate.
  • mixing seed with sand. I saw this suggestion specifically for carrots, but again, it just seemed like an iffy proposition.
  • making a dibble board.

I first saw a high-tech version of the third item in question in a Martha Stewart magazine (groan, I admit), though the thing she was using was super fancy — it was a combo tool that made blocks of dirt with a little hole in the top so you have instant dirt pots for seedlings.

Of course I don’t have one of these, nor do I have the means to make one, nor do I have hundreds of dollars to spend on such a contraption, nor do I have a giant greenhouse operation to make this worth my while.

Then I saw this (again, way out of my price range–$225!)

Clearly, that’s a high tech doo-dad. But what is it?

A dibble board, or a pretty clever multiplication of a simple seed dibble, an old-fashioned farmer’s tool that you use to make a nice little divot in the dirt to receive the seed in question.

At it’s simplest, it’s a pointed stick you poke into the ground.

For $10, I bought a little wooden plank (poplar, groan), 75 wooden dowels and a zinc-plated handle (partially for looks, partially because I thought it might make it easier to use.) I drew a 1-inch grid on one side and drilled holes at the intersections, hammered the dowels in and voila: a cheapie dibble board.

In theory, I thought it would simplify the issue of spacing–why sow seeds thickly when I have a clear target and can just plant seeds at the space they’d need to be anyway?

Last week, after it rained, I pressed the dibble board into the soil of my garden, making neat little rows. Instead of planting seeds in rows, though, I skipped every other hole, following a kind of a honeycomb pattern so that plants would be clustered but still have adequate space on all sides.This is an example of someone else’s planting plan for carrots:

We’ll see how this works out. I used the dibble board to plan out spacing for carrots, mache, chard, several types of radishes, beets and an interplanting of Vivian romaine-style lettuce and more carrots.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. bob stenerson permalink
    May 6, 2012 6:56 pm

    That soil block maker only costs about 34 bucks. I started using this year and like the results.

  2. bob stenerson permalink
    May 6, 2012 6:58 pm

    By the way for carrots that dibble board is a great idea. Soil blocks are not recommended for growing carrots though some folks do use them for that.

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