Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sowing seeds in anticipation for rain

Beet sprouts.  In the desert keeping seed and seedlings moist can be difficult.  It can take a lot of water and time to keep prevent them from dying before they are more established.  This method overcomes this problem, saving water and time.

Three falls ago I was planting my garden with my two year old son trying to get him not to destroy it.  In an attempt to occupy him I gave him some extra radish and beet seeds for him to "plant".  His version of planting was taking a handful of seeds and throwing them on the ground in the garden.  Not thinking anything would come of them I simply covered the seeds with dirt and forgot about them. Total time required: about two minutes (maybe).  It didn't rain much of anything for one to two months after this and I didn't water any of these seed.  When a large rain event did finally come all of the seeds my son "planted" sprouted within a few days and we had plenty of radishes and beets in a month or so.  All with only a few minutes of work.  His careless planting method has proven to be quite effective now for three years for radishes, beets, and green onions in the desert.  I am sure other plants can be grown this way, I just haven't tried any other ones. 

Here is the basic method:
1. Take a handful of seeds and throw them on the ground.
2. Gently rake them in or cover them.
3. Wait for rain.
4. Water as needed after rainfall germinates them.
5. Thin and harvest as needed.

One of the most difficult challenges in the desert to overcome is how fast things dry out.  This is especially a danger for seeds and seedlings which can easily be killed by dehydration in only one day if not kept adequately moist.  By sowing seeds and waiting for rain the problem of constantly watering and monitoring seedlings is avoided and the workload is decreased by almost 100 percent.  I have also been able to conserve up to 100 percent of water (depending on how much rain we get) for some crops of radishes and beets using this method.  I would like to grow other plants this way but haven't done it yet.  I suspect it works best with short season plants that quickly germinate, such as radishes that mature in about 30 days.


  1. Amazing! Please what is the technical term for sowing in anticipation for rain? I can be reached at jibrila0886@yahoo.com. Answer needed from anyone that can help please

  2. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the technical name for this is. I know Native Americans in deserts would plant in dry washes waiting for summer rains to flood their gardens. Not sure if their is any particular name for this type of gardening though.