GARDENERS FACTSHEET NO. 2
SEEDING VEGETABLE CROPS
Dr. John M. Gerber
DEPTH OF SEEDING
The rains have begun, the days are getting cooler and the
sun less intense, it's time to plant your Virgin Islands vegetable
garden. Before you begin planting, stop and be sure you are
ready. Do you have your seed? Is it viable? Where are you
going to plant? Is the seed bed prepared? If you know the
answers to these questions, go ahead and plant. If not, read on.
One of the most important prerequisites for a successful
garden is living seed. Old or new seed that is stored improperly
may not germinate. The best way to insure seed viability is to
purchase new seeds each year from a reputable seed company
(several are listed below).
If you purchase seed locally, check the date stamped on the
package and ask the store owner how is was stored after it
arrived in the islands. Seed stored in cool, dry conditions will
remain viable for several years.
Seed germination is promoted by a warm, moist environ-
ment, conditions exactly opposite those for best seed storage. A
seed bed should be prepared to provide the optimum
environment for germination and growth.
All weeds and debris from previous crops should be
removed and the soil should be roto-tilled. Fertilizer should be
added prior to tilling so it may be mixed evenly in the top 6
inches of soil. If the soil is heavy and poorly drained, the plot
should be banked and the seeds planted on top of the ridges.
Additions of organic matter such as manure or compost will help
improve drainage as well as supply valuable nutrients.
The seed bed should be moist prior to planting but not
waterlogged. Although moisture is necessary for germination,
too much water will not allow the seed any oxygen and will
promote seed and seedling decay.
The back of the seed packet should tell you how deep to
plant. If not, check the Vegetable Planting and Harvest Guide
put out by the C.V.I. Cooperative Extension Service. Remember,
small seeds like lettuce and carrots are planted close to the
surface, usually 1/8 1/2 inch deep. Larger seeds such as beans
and corn are planted deeper, usually 1-2 inches. Large seeds
contain more food reserve. This allows them to grow from
deeper in the soil before they reach the sunlight and begin
producing their own food. A small seed doesn't have as far to
travel but usually takes longer. A limited food supply combined
with rapid drying of the soil surface may delay or prevent
emergence of small seeds.
HOW FAR APART
Check the seed packet or the Vegetable Planting and
Harvest Guide for figures on spacing.. Remember, you seed more
than you expect to harvest because they all won't grow.
However, if you seed too many more than you expect to grow,
you will be wasting a lot of time with the tedious process of
thinning. If you seed too far apart, you're wasting space. There
is always some thinning to be done to achieve the desired
spacing. Vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, onions and carrots
should be thinned several times. One to two weeks after
emergence remove just enough seedlings to allow the strongest
growing room. Do not thin at this time to the final desired
spacing. Several weeks later you can go back and thin to the
final spacing. This will provide extra insurance that you have a
solid row of vegetables at the final harvest. Also, the plants from
the second thinning are often large enough for that first garden-
Unwanted plants interfere with the growing of the desired
crop by using valuable water and nutrients as well as shading
young seedlings. Prevent the growth of weeds by removing
them prior to planting and pulling them from the row during the
growing season. A hoe or a roto-tiller can be used between
rows. Remember, they are easier to kill when they are small.
What happens if it didn't work? The seed didn't come up
and you don't know why. First check the following list of
possibilities. Then, should you not find any solution to your
problem, call the Cooperative Extension Service of the College of
the Virgin Islands.
1. Non-viable seed. Was the seed viable when you
planted it? Find out by rolling up 10 left over seeds in a moist
paper towel. Keep the towel moist but not waterlogged. After
several days check for germination. Some seeds will take slightly
longer but almost all should germinate before 10 days in the wet
2. Damping-off. Seeds may rot in the ground if the soil is
too wet. This is caused by a fungus that is always around but
only grows under wet conditions. Prevention is difficult if rains
occur on several successive days immediately prior to and
during seedling emergence. Reseed the crop on banks and
drench the soil with a fungicide solution such as Captan
(directions on label).
3. Soil insects. Several soil maggots and grubs are
known to damage seed. These can be prevented by drenching
the seed with a Diazinon solution (directions on label)
immediately after planting.
4. Concentrated fertilizer. Most fertilizers are salts
which dissolve in water and are absorbed by plant roots. If the
fertilizer is concentrated too close to the seed, injury may occur.
Proper incorporation of fertilizer will prevent this problem.
Products and suppliers mentioned by name in this publication are used as examples and in no way imply endorsement or recommendation of these
products or suppliers.
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914 (as amended), in cooperation with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, D.S. Padda, Director, College of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service. The College of the Virgin Islands
Cooperative Extension Service is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action organization, providing educational services in the field of agriculture, home
economics, rural development, 4-H youth development and related subjects to all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
VEGETABLES THAT SHOULD BE SEEDED VEGETABLES THAT CAN BE DIRECTLY
DIRECTLY INTO THE GARDEN: SEEDED OR TRANSPLANTED:
beans corn okra lettuce cabbage broccoli
melons cucumbers squash collards onion tomato
pumpkin beets turnips eggplant leek
radish spinach carrots
Reuter Seed Co., Inc.
320 N. Carrollton Ave.
New Orleans, La. 70119
Otis S. Twilley Seed Co.
P.O. Box 65
Trevose, Pa. 19047
W. Atlee Burpee Co.
Warminster, Pa. 18974
G. W. Park Seed Co.
Greenwood, S.C. 29647