Summer: How to Fluid Drill Seeds
Soaking seeds before sowing is another water-wise technique,
especially useful later in the season. At bedtime, place the seeds
in a half-pint mason jar, cover with a square of plastic window
screen held on with a strong rubber band, soak the seeds overnight,
then drain them first thing in the morning. Gently rinse the
seeds with cool water two or three times daily until the root tips
begin to emerge. As soon as this sign appears, the seed must be
sown, because the newly emerging roots become increasingly subject
to breaking off as they develop and soon form tangled masses.
Presprouted seeds may be gently blended into some crumbly, moist
soil and this mixture gently sprinkled into a furrow and covered. If
the sprouts are particularly delicate or, as with carrots, you want
a very uniform stand, disperse the seeds in a starch gelatin and
imitate what commercial vegetable growers call fluid drilling.
Heat one pint of water to the boiling point. Dissolve in 2 to 3
tablespoons of ordinary cornstarch. Place the mixture in the
refrigerator to cool. Soon the liquid will become a soupy gel.
Gently mix this cool starch gel with the sprouting seeds, making
sure the seeds are uniformly blended. Pour the mixture into a
1-quart plastic zipper bag and, scissors in hand, go out to the
garden. After a furrow--with capillarity restored--has been
prepared, cut a small hole in one lower corner of the plastic bag.
The hole size should be under 1/4 inch in diameter. Walk quickly
down the row, dribbling a mixture of gel and seeds into the furrow.
Then cover. You may have to experiment a few times with cooled gel
minus seeds until you divine the proper hole size, walking speed and
amount of gel needed per length of furrow. Not only will presprouted
seeds come up days sooner, and not only will the root be penetrating
moist soil long before the shoot emerges, but the stand of seedlings
will be very uniformly spaced and easier to thin. After fluid
drilling a few times you'll realize that one needs quite a bit less
seed per length of row than you previously thought.
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