I like to keep my garden beds active. Sometimes, I do not plant them with vegetables, but with grains. In the Fall, I plant winter wheat. In the late Spring, I plant buckwheat. Later in the Summer, I plant millet.
These crops are not meant to feed me or my family. They are meant to keep my soil active, and sometimes feed my backyard chickens. Typically, I sow seed by broadcasting it onto the soil, but this method is haphazard and wasteful. Last year, I tried making a grid of holes using a steel rake, dropping individual grains into the holes to create evenly-spaced rows of seeds. This was extremely tedious.
I looked at seed planting machines, but they are all more complicated and expensive than I need. The less complex ones were only slightly less tedious than planting grains by hand. And so I tried to create a seed distribution tool that was inexpensive and easy to use for my small garden beds.
The tool described here uses two PVC pipes which are sized so one will fit within the other. The inner pipe has drilled holes which are sized to hold one or two seeds, and spaced appropriately for planting those seeds. The outer pipe has a channel cut into it, creating an opening through which the seeds may pass, when aligned with the holes.
Step 1: Two PVC Pipes
These two pipes are 24 inches long. The inner one is of one inch nominal inner diameter, and 1 5/8 inch outer diameter. The outer pipe is 1 1/2 inch nominal inner diameter, but is really more like 1 5/8 inch. Thus, the two pipes can fit together as shown, and slide freely past each other.
Step 2: Find a Hole That Will Work for the Seed
I used several different drill bits to find one that will work for buckwheat. Although the smallest hole will fit a single seed, it does not release it reliably. Also, some seeds are a little bit too large for it. So I chose the next largest drill bit to make my seed holes.
Step 3: Mark and Drill the Inner Pipe
I have read that buckwheat can be sown with 2 inch spacing, and thinned to 4 inches.
I will sow with 4 inch spacing, with 4 inches between rows. If any seeds do not germinate, I can plant seeds by hand to fill in the gaps. This means a 24-inch pipe will have six holes, which I arranged to give me a 2 inch margin at either end.
I drilled the holes slowly, trying to make them perpendicular to the tangent plane of the pipe.
Step 4: Cut a Channel in the Outer Pipe
I used a tablesaw to cut a channel in the pipe. The channel is made a bit wide, mainly because my holes were not drilled in an exactly straight line. Still, it worked fine.
Step 5: Finishing Up
Placing the inner pipe into the outer pipe, I can rotate the pipes to line up the channel and holes.
I made a 1 inch wooden plug to plug one end of the inner pipe, and also inserted a bolt to use as a handle. The bolt also indicates the location of the row of drilled holes.
Step 6: Loading Seed, and Releasing ThemPour
Rotate the pipes to cover the drilled holes, then pour in a small amount of intact buckwheat.
Holding the pipe horizontally, positioned so the drilled holes are pointing downward, gently rock the pipes to distribute the seed. Buckwheat seeds should fall into the drilled holes.
Tilt the pipes a bit, and gently pour out the excess seeds, keeping the drilled holes pointed downward.
If I am planting in a furrow cut in my garden bed, this is when I would place the pipes, hole side down, into the furrow.
Keeping the holes pointing down, rotate the outer pipe so the channel points downward. This will let the seeds fall out of the holes, into the furrow. They will be appropriately spaced, with only one or two seeds per position. Tap the pipes a little, to dislodge any seeds that might be stuck in the holes.
Lift the pipes from the furrow. Two feet of the furrow have been planted!
Rotate the pipes to close the channel, and add more seed. Repeat the steps.
Step 7: Final Comments
I have not yet tried this out, but it looks like it should work. I will buy another 1 inch pipe, and drill it appropriately for millet, which I will be planting; and I will buy a third pipe for wheat.
It is not the most effective planter, but it is properly scaled for my garden beds. I may add more pictures when the seedlings finally emerge.