We’ve already talked about the fact that you can’t just throw seeds into a hole and expect them to grow. Did you know that different seeds grow better depending on how you plant them? I’ve given definitions of some terms that I’m going to use here to get you started.
Hill: A pile of soil anywhere between 6″-1′ tall.
Mound: A pile of soil greater than 1′ tall.
Furrow: A long shallow trench with a flat bottom.
I think this is a good place to note that even when planting in hills or mounds, it is still best to keep neat, orderly rows and/or columns in place that way the soil is dispersed evenly over each hill or mound, and so that you know what is a vegetable and what is a weed.
Things that grow best in hills are sprawling things with seeds that are easily handled one at a time, like beans, peas, and sunflowers. The tops of each hill should be 1′ apart, that way the roots have enough room to spread out as well as down, and you will get a robust crop. If you have tested the viability of your seeds, and you know that it is good, it’s ok to plant just 3 seeds in a hill or mound and let them grow. (Some sources believe it is best to thin to the two strongest plants per hill or mound, but I have grown 3 plants per mound and had a bountiful harvest anyway.) If you have not tested the viability of your seeds, I recommend planting 10 seeds per hill or mound, and thinning to the strongest plants once the seedlings are 6″ tall. Also consider putting a miniature moat around the bottom of your hill or mound to retain water for you plants when things get dry.
Mounds should be at least 1′ tall, and have a bottom 18″ wide. Mounds are best for things that are big and sprawling, such as cucumbers, zucchini, squash, pumpkins, and melons. While the closest mounds can be to each other is 18″, keep in mind that the bigger what you’re planting is, the further apart you will want them to be. For small pumpkins and melons, I recommend putting the tops of the mounds at least 3′ apart. If you’re growing those giant pumpkins that can weigh up to 200 pounds, you might be putting them more like 10-15 feet apart. The space between mounds is where your plant will be growing, so there should be enough room when you make the mound and plant your seed for the entire mature plant to sit between two mounds.
If you’re not sure whether to plant something in a hill or mound, a general rule to follow is if the plant needs to be “well-drained”, start with a hill and see how it does. If things go well, feel free to plant it in a hill again. If you think things could have gone better, try planting it in a mound next year, or find another way that you like better.
Things that need more depth, and not necessarily space, to grow are best planted in a furrow. When I say things that need more depth, I’m talking about root plants such as potatoes and onions, carrots, rhubarb, asparagus, turnips and the like. When you make your furrow, pile the soil up on the sides so that you can easily cover either your seeds, or the roots of your seedlings.
Growing something in a “patch” means that it likes to be with a lot of it’s own kind, think of this as a heard of horses, or a school of fish- it’s the same concept. While some things will do well if not grown in a patch (melons, pumpkins), they still prefer a lot of their own kind. Other things- namely corn- will not do well with just a handful of plants, and must be grown with a lot of their own kind. A good number to follow for patch fruits and vegetables is 15. Make sure you have enough room for 15 corn plants, 15 melons, or 15 pumpkins. (Although, again, with melons and pumpkins, they will do OK with less of their own kind- experiment!) Grass also grows in patches.
“Broadcasting”, when truly done, means that you just take a handful of seeds and toss them over an area without bothering to space them out, or cover them. This method is used mostly just for grass seed, although if you know of anything else this is used with, I’d love to hear about it. You can also kind of use broadcasting for carrots (I know, I mentioned carrots for furrows too; there’s more than one way to grow something). To do this, spread a handful of carrot seeds over a 3′ by 3′ area, and cover them with 1/8″ of top soil.
These are just a few different common planting methods, there’s too many to talk about every single way to grow something. Like I’ve said, one plant can be grown more than one way, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works best for you.