Some seeds are a joy to plant. Poke a pea, a bean or a kernel of corn into a straight furrow and you can easily see what you have just done. You can guarantee that if the seeds germinate well, they will be correctly spaced, and each plant will have just the right amount of earth it needs to grow in. These are the seeds we hand to children when they are learning how to garden.
Others are a bit more tricky, such as the needle shape of zinnia seeds, the large commas of calendula, the small commas of carrots and lettuce. And some are so tiny that they look like dust and come up like blades of grass, making them tedious to thin.
For the home gardener, the diversity of seeds is part of the adventure, and with experience you learn to cope with even the funny ones. You figure out the technique of creasing your seed packet and letting tiny seeds march down the resulting V-channel, like divers lined up on the high board. With good eyesight, patience and a steady hand you can get pretty good at the game.
Commercial growers don’t have it quite so easy. They must use mechanical seeders that are stymied by irregular shapes, and so sophisticated means of pelleting seeds have been developed to ease seeding. This consists of coating the seed with an inert clay to make them smooth and uniform. The result: a row of lettuce in which no seed is wasted, a bed of carrots in which none are crowded and misshapen. Once planted and moistened, the coating dissolves or the pellet is designed to split upon encountering moisture.
Give pelleted seeds a try. Not only are they easy to drop into place, they are highly visible as well, when coated with a light-colored material. A number of catalogues offer some of their seeds in pelleted form. Johnny’s Selected Seeds sells them for carrots, parsnips, lettuce and onions. Some seeds are primed for sprouting, most notably lettuce, which must be exposed to light for germination. This means you’ll need to buy new seeds each year, so you should order just what you need. Or let some very young gardeners use up the extras.
Damrosch is a freelance writer and the author of “The Garden Primer.”