Garden Seed Planters are Essential Sowing Tools

New old-style walk-behind seeders will save on labor and seed.

| January/February 2012

  • Garden Seed Planter
    When it comes time to sow a big garden you will be happy to have a collection of sowing tools that make the work easier while saving precious seed.
    Karen Keb
  • Pull Behind Garden Seed Planter
    12MX Cole Planter with fertilizer hopper
    Courtesy of Cole
  • Cole Planet Jr.
    Cole Planet Jr.
    Courtesy of Covington
  • Row Planting Unit
    Covington's 1 Row Planting Unit with TP-46 planter mounted on a 3-point cultivator with five rigid shanks
    Courtesy of Cole
  • 3-Point Workhorse
    Covington's 3-point TP-46 workhorse
    Courtesy of Covington
  • Earthway Planter
    Replacing a seed plate on the Earthway planter is no sweat. Driving country roads in March or maybe April, you’re likely to see a few of these in use for family vegetable gardens.
    Courtesy of Earthway

  • Garden Seed Planter
  • Pull Behind Garden Seed Planter
  • Cole Planet Jr.
  • Row Planting Unit
  • 3-Point Workhorse
  • Earthway Planter

As much as I anticipate working the soil each spring and planting the garden, when it comes time to actually set seed in the ground, I’m glad I now have a collection of sowing tools that makes the work easier and helps save precious seed. Our gardens are fairly large, and when it comes to sowing a quarter-acre or more of corn or fodder peas, a heavy-duty walk-behind plate planter fills the bill. When sowing smaller seed in the vegetable garden, we have a couple of light-duty and inexpensive planters to choose from. And for sowing corn, beans or squash in hills, we have antique and modern versions of the stab-style single-seed planters.

Talk the talk

Early sowing tools included sharpened sticks, antler tines, and even flaked rocks that were used much like we use a modern dibble (dibber in some references) to open holes in the soil to a particular depth, into which we drop a seed – or several seeds, planter style. For some crops, those sticks or antler tines were used to open up shallow furrows (drills) into which seed was dispensed more hastily and heavily to yield thick stands.

In today’s terms, a garden seed planter is a precision machine that places individual seeds at a specific spacing along a row. As the planter moves along the row, it opens the soil to a specific depth, places the seed, covers the seed and provides some means for pressing the soil into contact with the seed. Walk-behind planters generally have a wheel in front that drives the seed-metering mechanism, an often-hollow wedgelike structure called the shoe that opens the soil and helps convey the seed to the soil, a closing device that pulls the soil back over the seed – chains, discs, etc. – and a press wheel at the rear that ensures good seed-soil contact, which is needed for efficient germination.

The stab planter is quite a bit simpler than the walk-behind unit in that it consists of an opener/seed delivery tube and some kind of seed metering capability (sometimes as simple as the operator dropping the individual seeds into the tube). Closing and pressing are generally taken care of by the operator’s foot. Simple as it sounds, much of corn country was planted with such devices shortly after the sod was broken.



The modern drill, like the garden seed planter, can be a precision machine, but early drills were much less so. The drill is so-named because it opened small, shallow furrows (called drills) in the soil and placed a fairly continuous flow of seed into that furrow through tubes that terminated just behind the openers. Early drills offered precision seed placement when compared with simply broadcasting seed over the soil and initially became popular for planting small grains because it was easy to plant those seeds in drills spaced very close to one another, creating a solid stand of grain that required no cultivating under ideal conditions. Today’s drills are really every bit as precise with seed placement as a planter and can be outfitted for use with most crops.

For the homesteader, gardener and micro-scale small-grains grower, hand planters will likely be used to more advantage than old-style hand drills (if you can find one) under most conditions. (Some may argue with this statement, but the planter can be more readily adapted to sow small grains than the other way around.)






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