I have been testing the Martin’s (Not) Patented Seed Planting Stick and am so pleased with the early results I am posting my experience here.
I tried the stick on a few different types of soil using a few different types and sizes of seeds. This is what I found and some initial ideas on how to get the best results.
Overall the Seed Planting Stick worked well. Certainly is works well enough to consider using it regularly. Even with a little bit of practise I think the planting stick is a lot easier than having to bend down and use a dibbler. However, it definitely takes practise to use the Planting Stick well especially if using it different conditions and with more than one type of soil.
The Planting Stick can be used either right-handed or left-handed and in either case the other hand is used to insert the seeds.
The main technique is to insert the blade about half way into the ground, turn the stick 90 degrees clockwise (for right handed use) and insert a seed timed so that it hits the ground roughly about the same time as the blade finishes moving. It is easier to turn the stick 90 degrees if you start with the handle sticking out to the side and then turn it the handle to point towards you.
Therefore the technique is roughly like this (right handed):
1. Place the planting stick if front of you with the handle facing out to the right.
2. Push the blade into the ground till its about half way in. (Holding your elbow close to the body can’t help you control it, but it gets easier with practise).
3. Start to turn the planting stick clockwise so the handle is turning to point towards you.
4. At some point in the turn drop the seed into the seed hole timed to hit the ground about the time you finish the turn – or slightly after – at about 90 degrees.
5. Lift the seed stick and as you move forward step on the divet cut by the blade to flatten it (though the ground will often spring back to cover the hole and you won’t see much) . You might need to experiment to find the best foot to use to step on the divet.
6. repeat from step 1.
It is not necessary to get the timing exactly right. However, the hole made by the blade is obviously bigger at the end of the turn and so the seed has more chance of landing in it. Otherwise there can be a problem of the seed bouncing away, or just lying on the surface. As mentioned later, it can also help to lean the stick over a little so that the seeds are more likely to land near the outside edge of the blade (where the hole is biggest).
The planting stick can be turned more than 90 degrees, but this gets awkward unless you start with the handle pointing away from you. Sometimes wiggling the Stick back and forth a couple times through 90 degrees before dropping the seeds can help planting accuracy with some types of seeds and soil.
How well the planting stick works depends on the size of the seeds, the type of soil, how rough the surface is and whether there is any covering (grass, moss etc) and whether the soil is muddy, moist or dry. However, to some extent the effectiveness of using the planting stick in these different conditions can be improved with practise and with trying different techniques. It is also possible to customise the planting stick to suit specific types of seeds and for specific types of soil. It is definitely takes skill to use the Stick and takes some practise to get the hang of it. Results are better if just using one type of seed (or similarly sized types of seeds) in one soil type to begin with.
If the soil is reasonably firm (light dry soil might fill in the cut as soon as it is made) then there is no harm in having a pause between finishing the cut with the 90 degree turn and dropping in the seed.
It is usually good to press down the divet made by the cut (even if its only a very small divet). You can use your foot as you step forward. This can sometimes help a slightly misplaced seed go where it is supposed to.
It is good to start with seeds that you can easily see on the ground while standing upright. This is so that you can see for sure that they are going into the hole, when you move the Stick.
End of the planting stick gets plugged up with soil. This is caused by pushing the planting stick too far into the ground. The stick is only supposed to go in to part way up the blade. (Ideal planting depth is usually 3 times the size of the seeds). However, it takes skill to to get this right especially in varying soil conditions. It could be possible to attach a depth-stop to help prevent this, but I have not tried that yet. Use a twig to clear out the soil plug.
Seeds bounce out from under the planting stick. This usually means that the seed is not dropping into the hole made by the leading edge of the blade (which for right hand use the forward edge). Either put the seeds in later in the turn, or turn slower. It can also help to lean the stick over a little so that the seeds are more likely to land near the outside edge of the blade – which is where the hole is biggest – but not too much of a lean or seeds will land outside the hole.
I have not yet managed to get up to a continual flow if a seed planted every few steps. This is partly due to needing more practise, but it is also because inserting the seeds is a bit fiddly and awkward – especially if they are very small seeds and hands are cold.
Things which would help speed up the planting:
+ a seed holder which is attached to the planting stick.
+ a seed funnel at the top of the handle which feeds directly into the seed hole.
+ an automatic seed feeder attached to a depth-stop.
+ a push button seed feeder on the handle.
Currently it takes two hands to use the planting stick (one hand on the stick the other hand to insert the seeds). If this can get down to one hand then it would open up other possibilities – including have a planting stick in each hand!
Seed Stick Limitations:
Limit on the size of seeds. The size of the seed hole, the diameter of the narrowest tube and the size of the blade limits how big a seed the Seed Stick can handle. The current version could not be used for acorns or hazelnuts for example as these would be too big. However, even the current stick could handle bigger seeds by simple design changes: 1) removing the brass height-adjustment buttons and the mechanism which hold them in place (they take up space inside the tube) and using epoxy resin to fit the tubes together 2) instead of cutting off a half-section at the end of the inside pipe to create a blade; make a T shaped cut in the pipe and fold it out to make a blade about twice as wide as the tube, 3) and of course make the seed hole bigger.
Long grass. I did not try the Seed Stick on long grass as what you would find on an uncut roadside verge. It would probably need a longer and wider blade if it is likely to work at all. However, I did have some partial success using more like a 180 degree turn and doing this a couple of times before dropping the seeds. The roots of the grass might choke any seeds trying to sprout, but if that is not a concern, looking for bald or light patches of growth and planting in those spots might work.
Here are the instructions to make your own seed planting stick.
Email me your success stories or a link to a page and I’ll post about it: reg3 (at) iwp (dot) net