All seeds require a certain planting depth to produce the best growth, and most of the time; they are listed on the label. How exactly can a person control the seed depth with accuracy? This can be a hard question to answer and even a tougher feat to overcome when planting in a wide variety of soil conditions. But the seed depth at the time of planting is critical.
As a rule of thumb, the smaller the seed, the shallower it should be planted; the larger the seed, the deeper it should be planted. No seed in wildlife food plots should ever be planted any deeper than 1 ½ to two inches, and these are the largest of seeds: corn, chufa and large beans. Other seeds should be planted less than an inch, and less than one-half inch in most situations.
Seeds are small, embryonic structures enclosed inside a carbohydrate-rich housing. As the seed germinates, the small plant feeds off the carbohydrate outer shell, and a small stem emerges towards the sunlight and away from gravity. Until the small plant breaks the surface and starts receiving sunlight to photosynthesize, all of a plant’s energy must come from the seed pod. If seeds are too deep, the small plant dies from a lack of food or energy.
On the flip side, if the plants are too shallow, they can dry out. But a shallower planting will always be better than a deep planting in the end. When planted too deep, they will rarely ever make it to the surface without running out of juice.
Rick Morris, an agronomist for L. Harvey’s Fertilizer & Gas of Kinston, N.C., urges farmers to control their seed depth for better yields and better use by wildlife, especially planting small seeds.
“When planting smaller seeds such as wheat and small grains, 60 percent of your yield is already determined as soon as the seed is planted,” Morris said. “Planting too deep will cripple these plants from the start.”
Soil type will affect the depth of planting and the kind of equipment that is used. Morris recommends a common-sense approach when planting various size seeds and soil types.
“Anything you can do to produce the least amount of stress will produce better results,” he said. “Never plant too deep and always pay attention to the soil type.”
When a label indicates seeds should be planted one inch to ¾ inch, the soil type will affect the settings on the planter or seed drill. These planting depths are intended for heavy soil types such as clays and clay loams. In sandy soils, the settings should be set for a shallower planting because the planter will sink down deeper into the soil.