Choose the Right Garden Seed Planter

A walk-behind garden seed planter can reduce your workload and save you money.

| June/July 2012

If you grow a large garden, two types of garden seed planters can make your planting work easier and help save precious seed: walk-behind seed planters and stab planters.

A walk-behind 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 and covers the seed, and then presses the soil into contact with the seed. These walk-behind planters generally have a wheel in front that drives the seed-metering cylinder or plate mechanism; an often hollow, wedge-like structure (called the “shoe”) that opens the soil and helps convey the seed to the soil; a closing device — chains, discs, etc. — that pulls the soil back over the seed; and a press wheel at the rear that ensures good seed-soil contact, which is needed for efficient germination.

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 you can choose from a couple of light-duty and inexpensive planters.

The stab planter is quite a bit simpler than the walk-behind unit. 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 the corn country in the United States was planted with such low-tech devices shortly after the sod was first broken.

Working with hand planters can be joyous or frustrating, depending on your soil type, soil conditions, garden size and your physical condition. Lighter-duty planters tend to work better in lighter soils or heavy soils under ideal conditions — perfect moisture content, completely mellow, friable. If your soil gums up on the planter’s parts or is so tight that the openers can’t do their job, it may be best to put off planting for another day.

Current Garden Seed Planter Options

EarthWay’s 1001-B Precision Garden Seeder (about $130) is one of the best walk-behind planters available today for beginning gardeners. This planter has been on the market (in numerous iterations) for decades; I’ve worn out one and am well into my second. The EarthWay is made from lightweight aluminum and plastic components that have proven durable in my hands.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!