100% Michigan Grown Staple Crop Seeds that Empower Your Plant-based Lifestyle Goals

Homestead Skills--Planting

There are three primary tasks: opening a furrow, placing the seeds and covering them.

Furrow Creation


For years, all we used was a hoe, often guided by a string stretched between two stakes. Simple and cost effective, a little slow, and a lot of walking.

Wheel Hoe

This was our first big jump up in speed of planting. Planting season is a very busy time, and how much we could plant is constrained by working hours available. A wheel hoe is a very efficient way to open suitable furrows typical for small grains, corn and beans. More skill to maintain a shallow depth for carrots, beets, and other root crops is needed. 

In nice loamy soil, I can place a series of furrows as close as 8 to 9 inches apart.  Any closer, then, the soil from one furrow mounds into the adjacent one.  If the soil has a bit of clay and is more clumpy, then, 9 to 10 inches works. 

wheel hoe to create planting furrows


Wheel Dibbler

The spacing of the 'dents' can be adjusted.  One gets uniformly spaced seedlings with this method. 


Placing the Seeds

With precious and rare seeds, broadcast planting is too risky.  Each seed is individually dropped into a furrow:

These pictures from our early days in ~2016 are smaller plantings than today, but the concept and manual labor hasn't changed that much.  The precious seeds are then covered with soil mixed with a bit of compost to help the young plants emerge from our high clay content soil:

Spacing comes in two directions.  First, what is the spacing between the plants.  Here, we see "3 Plants" in the distance of 16 inches, so 16/3 = 5.3 inches per plant

spacing within the row, between the plants

Then, there is the spacing between the rows.  

between the row spacing

Looks like I was getting 19 inches across two rows, so, 19/2 = 9.5 inches between rows.  Going slow and taking care, it is possible to get the spacing as close as 8 inches.  Anything less must be furrowed and planted one by one, which is way to slow!

This process is repeated in a careful pattern, alternating between wheat, barley, emmer, ... so there is no unauthorized crossing between patches. In 2017, we grew more than 30 kinds of wheat and 30 kinds of barley:


Labelling What You Plant

It took a few years to find a wooden label/stake that consistently survived the whole season, remaining legible without becoming misplaced.  However, those short stakes were sometimes a bit challenging to find amongst the stems and weeds. So, in 2023, we switched to snowplow stakes with wrap around plastic tree tags and had more than 200 individual 'plots' within the fields.

 snow plow poles with wrap around plastic tree tags

To our surprise, we found that writing with a pencil lasts better than any permanent marker.

Everything is labelled using the white tags.  We have some colored tags which will we use to indicate special handling during harvest.


How Many Seeds?

A common question is how much seeds should be bought for a certain sized plot. Well, it depends, but as a starting point for grains such as wheat, barley, rye, oats, and triticale, we present this table:

How many seeds to plant this space?

Over the winter, we'll tabulate different square inches per plant depending on which grain it is.  This table assumes you will 'drop' one seed per 4 inches along the row, with 9 inches between rows. This rate of seeding is practical for the homestead grower.  With practice, you can drop 1 seed where you want it, with occasionally an 'extra'.  As the plot gets larger, the time it takes to plant becomes more important, so, I sprinkle faster and 'waste' more seed; but get more work done.

Instead of immediately planting a large plot with a variety you've never grown, we recommend in the first year or two, grow several varieties.  You might be surprised at which one 'thrives' in your soil vs just 'grows'. 

This chart explains how rapidly your pile of seeds will growth over several years.  I used "1 seed planted" gives 30 seeds at harvest.  Most varieties will yield 3 or more times that. On the other side, I assumed '1 seed' is hand placed in the same 4 inch by 9 inch pattern.   That is possible for spaces planted by hand, but for larger plots, a push type planter will not be so dainty in its use of seeds.  It's a guideline to show the amazing power of plant life.

Rate of Seed Growth


Direct Seeding

This is the low tech process of dropping seeds, usually one by one, into the furrow.  I like to place enough seeds for a few rows into a bowl or plastic container to pick from.  Do not put all your seeds in the open container as you never know when you'll spill it or the wind flip it.  

For early grow out of a new variety when you haven't many starting seeds, this is what we do, 1 by 1.  This process involves a lot of kneeling and bending. 

If I'm planting corn with plenty of seeds on hand, I will drop 2 or 3 into the furrow from comfortable height (to avoid a lot of bending).  Most land about right.  After they've grown a few inches, I'll thin out the weaker seedlings (feeding them to our geese as a treat). 

Native American's used a kind of stick to poke a hole to avoid making a long furrow. We've also used our rotary dibbler to create the same kind off fixed spacing dents for the seeds.


Broadcast Sowing

Broadcast sowing (broadcasting) the seeds by skillfully flinging them by hand sounds so romantic.  I'm thinking medieval tapestry, or Pa in Little House on the Prairie. Obviously it works, but will use more 'seed' than direct seeding or use of a push seeder since many seeds may not land in the right place or be covered to the ideal depth.



Push Seeder

There are several brands available.  We've used the one from Earthway.  Some experimenting is needed to get the right seeding rate (seeds per foot pushed).  For plots less than 50 feet long and a dozen rows, I would plant by hand, but for quarter acre, this is what I would use. 

Because the push seeder opens the furrow, drops the seeds and covers them, it would be possible to space rows closer than my typical 9 inches pattern.  For some crops, this higher density might be useful, especially for the shorter varieties of grain that don't form great weed inhibiting canopies.


Covering the Seeds

Either a metal garden or wooden seed bed rake can be used gently to shift soil back into the furrow to cover the seeds. I carefully walk back over the furrow to compress the soil for good contact between the seed and soil with its critical moisture.