Timing is the most important part of planting seeds outdoors. Warm season crops such as beans, melons, squash and corn will not germinate and grow when soil is too cool. On the other hand, lettuce requires a relatively cool soil temperature for germination. Follow the seed package directions to determine the best time for planting.
Soils that have a high percentage of clay will form a hard crust over the surface which will block seed germination. If you have this type of soil, you should plant the seeds in trenches, then fill the trenches with a light non-crusting material such as peat moss, compost or vermiculite.
A common error made by beginning gardeners is to plant the seeds too deep. Although there are many rules of thumb, such as plant seeds to a depth twice their diameter, it is best if you plant the seed to the depth recommended on the seed package.
Hill Planting – This is a convenient way to handle spreading vegetables that will require wide spacing, such as melons, cucumbers or pumpkins. Plant six to eight seeds in mounds that are three to four feet apart. Then once the seeds have germinated, thin the plants until you have about three or four seedlings in each mound.
Row Planting – Most vegetable gardens are planted in rows. Mark out straight rows by using a string tied between two stakes. Using a hoe, make a furrow of the recommended depth. Drop seeds into the furrow, cover with soil and lightly tamp down. Planting seeds more thickly than the package recommends is okay if you anticipate poor germination. If you have a large germination, you will need to thin the seedlings to the recommended spacing.
Broadcasting – This method simulates the way nature would sow seeds. Broadcasting or scattering seeds by hand, is most often done to get a natural or informal effect, such as with mixed annuals or wildflowers, over a large area. Hand broadcasting results in dense, though sometimes erratic, spacing of plants. Loosen soil thoroughly before broadcasting seeds.