Seeds in mulch. How do I plant seeds into mulch in no dig garden?

by nhgardener

I've been reading a lot about no-till gardening, and I want to do more of it for my vegetable garden. What I don't understand is how do you plant seeds in mulch? Don't you need to put seeds into fine soil? I'm especially worried about tiny seeds like lettuce.
Also, at the end of the season, should you pull plants out of the ground or just cut them off at soil level and leave the roots in the ground?

Comments for Seeds in mulch. How do I plant seeds into mulch in no dig garden?

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Feb 28, 2010
Mulch on top of ground
by: Tom

I have never heard of planting seeds into the mulch. For my understanding and experience, you are correct. The mulch is a covering to inpede the weeds from being able to get light to grow and to help keeep the soil cooler in the hot times and to help hold in moister. Plants like tomtatos and peppers which are hot weather plants should not be mulched until they are growing quiet robustly , since mulch will cool off the soil when they most need warmth.

Apr 20, 2010
tips and tricks

with regard to planting the seeds in the mulch I am not sure that this will work, especially for small seeds, you could try making seed balls or putting a small handfull of soil and compost into the mulch and seeding into that, then mulch apropriately as they grow.

when you are cleaning up at the end of the year you should not remove the roots from the ground, let them decompose naturally there, and I would even leave the dead plants to mulch themselves where they stand. If you still need to tidy in the spring then cut the plant off at the roots.

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May 02, 2010
tiny seeds in deep mulch
by: Virginia Pykonen

Ruth Stout did not advocate planting seeds in the mulch. She recommended pulling the mulch aside with a rake to expose the soil to plant in rows. Only after the seedlings were well up did she recommend pushing the mulch back up close to the plants.

Richard Clemence did recommend planting seeds on top of mulch, by first covering the mulch with a fine layer of peat moss or seived compost, which blocks up all the holes and stops tiny seeds from falling through. He said this method worked well for leafy plants, but not so well for root vegetables because they would tend to grow extremely long and skinny down through the mulch.

May 21, 2010
seeds into mulch
by: bill t

You will have to differentiate between seed size and plant accordingly.Mulch is purely a covering of rough organic material used to keep sun heat out winter cold at bay and conserve moisture. It will eventually break down to add finer organic material to your no dig patch, this is the end result with no dig gardening,keep adding organic material. As for seed planting, try buying seed potting mix for small seeds and plant them as per manufactures guide in trays or small pots. For larger seeds pull the mulch apart to make a hole, add compost or potting mix and plant your seed into the finer material.
Hope this helps,Happy no dig gardening Cheers Bill T. :)

Mar 03, 2011
Hawaii style
by: Kaufarmer

Gardening in Hawaii is surely different than on the Mainland, but here in Hawaii we are capable of growing vegetables in mulch. I recently harvested a good crop of potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, and squash grown in all mulch. The mulch is coarsely ground plant waste from the county, containing a lot of coconut tree waste. Lack of soil is a real problem on the south side of the Big Island, so gardeners are now experimenting in growing in 100% mulch. I just seeded beans, collards, kale, and onions. We'll see how they do in my 18" deep mulch beds.

Mar 13, 2014
Beans into Mulch
by: Anonymous

Yes, it was a surprise to myself and my 2nd grader daughter who is doing the project. She suggested to use mulch besides potting soil, sand and clay. So we planted organic Lima beans seeds into potting soil, sand, clay and plain black mulch. For our huge surprise, beans came out faster on mulch than potting soil. Also, beans came out on sand (that bought from Home depot for sand box).
It is existed project so far, she learn something so as myself too.

STEM Project Title: Do beans grow faster into potting soil, clay or sand?

Jun 13, 2016
Seed balls/bombs used to destroy property
by: Anonymous

When used for permaculture seed bombs/balls are great, but it's ILLEGAL to dump seed bombs on private property. Dumping is a TRESPASS. Here's what's going on in my part of the upper middle class world: whenever a neighbor has a problem with another neighbor he or she bombards their neighbor's house with seed bombs. Seed bombs not only ruin landscapes that cost thousands of dollars to plant but they also invite rodents. That's correct--rats, white footed mice, brown mice, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, many birds and their predators are attracted to seed balls/bombs. The rodents chew up expensive roots on bushes, trees and herbaceous plants as they desperately try to eat all the seeds and moss. Rodent's poop also attracts their predators, and those predators tear up the garden looking for rodents. As if this is not bad enough some have decided to throw glass shards inside the seed balls.

Seed bombing private property, other than yours, could cause the destruction of property and it is illegally dumping. Dumping is against the law and a person can get a fine, arrested or sued for such acts. As for children, anyone teaching them to throw seed balls on private property other than their own, is encouraging bullying and unlawful behavior, and therefore corrupting minors.

Jul 20, 2017
sowing into mulched beds
by: Kirpi

I don't see what the above comment has to do with the original question.
However, in the UK we need to make sure the new seedlings are not growing up in mulch which gives cover to slugs which graze off the seedlings as they emerge.
The solution is to either sow the seeds into module trays and plant the established plant out, or scrape the mulch back and sow into the soil underneath, sprinkle slug pellets if you have to and push the mulch back once the plants are established.

Jun 02, 2018
Helpful and timely discussion
by: Merryj

I'm finally experimenting with mulch in my raised beds, and last year had a near-total fail with seeds direct sown. I was attempting to make small holes in the mulch for each seed, but I suspect they were too small and the mulch was washing back down and covering them and preventing germination. I use the square foot method and shredded leaves as the mulch. This spring, I put in my transplants, and moved the remaining mulch to those squares, and planted seeds in bare soil. Once they're up, I'll apply a few inches of fresh shredded leaves to the whole bed, as it's a bit thin around the transplants, even with the boost from the seeded square feet. This discussion has clarified my approach quite a bit, thanks!

As for seed balls, it seems to be a trait of human nature that some people will turn any good technology to bad ends. That doesn't mean the technology is bad - seed balls in the hard soil of industrial wasteland abandoned lots can be a huge help in regeneration of that land, and the idea of using them on top of mulch to have only your chosen seeds germinate when you want them is genius!

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