Garden Seeder or Planter - Buying Guide

There are 3 common ways to plant a garden:
● kneeling,
● standing, or
● pushing.

Each is appropriate in certain circumstances, and some gardeners use all three methods. We will discuss when each of the three methods are appropriate, and show some garden seeding gear that will make the job easier. Hopefully this information will help you pick the best garden seeder planter for you.

Garden Seed Planters that you Push

Let's start with this method, just because it has the most interesting seeding machines. There are currently three brands of push style garden seeders for sale being sold and used widely in the US. They are the Earthway, the Hoss, and the Jang. Below are some helpful experiences, insights, and comparison points for each.   The brand name for each tool links to the page where we obtained the images and information about them.

✔  Earthway Precision Seeder

Earthway seeder

This is the brand of garden seed row planter that has been around the longest, and is most widely known. It has an aluminum frame and handles. The wheels, hopper, and seed plates are plastic. Each seed plate is a disc with scoops molded into it. They rotate vertically, like a Ferris Wheel, and scoop up seeds from bottom of the hopper and drop them into a window behind the seed plate further up the hopper's side wall.

It is generally well liked by those with small gardens, and those planting medium or large seeds (corn, peas, beans, etc). But it does have some issues that can cause those with big gardens or commercial operations to explore other options. Those issues and struggles are mostly with the small seeds. One issues is skipping seeds, either because the scoop did not pick one up, or it bounced out when the light seeder hit a bump, or it got stuck behind the seed plate (from the plates being a little warped or bowed). It is also very difficult to make custom seed plates for this unit, which commercial growers often do need.

But even with those issues, it is still a good seeder. Here are the basic comparison stats:
● Construction = Aluminum + Plastic
● Row marker = comes with unit
● Total # seed plates available = 12
● Seed size range = small to large
● Seed spacing range = 1” to 12”
● Spacing method = # holes in plate
● Opener type = Shoe plow
● Base cost, with 6 seed plates = $115

✔  Hoss Garden Seeders

Hoss garden seeder

The next step up in strength, ability, and cost are the Hoss models. They have a steel frame, wood handles, and a plastic hopper and seed plates. Their seed plates are round discs of different thicknesses, with holes drilled in them. They rotate horizontally (flat), like a record player, in the bottom of the hopper. Since they are rotating flat, it is much easier for both large and small seeds to get into, and stay in the holes until ready to drop straight down the tube.

It has been well liked both by home gardeners and those with larger commercial operations. Improved handling of small seeds, and the simplicity of making custom seed plates, has been important to the larger growers. One complaint they have had is that the seed hopper is not very large and needs refilling more than the other brands.

There are two versions to consider, an attachment and a stand-alone seeder. Both use an identical seed plate system. If you already have a Hoss wheel hoe, or want to add one to also take care of garden weeding and cultivating chores, then consider the Push Planter attachment. This attachment with 6 standard seed plates costs $189, and a basic wheel hoe is about the same. But the other version, the stand-alone unit is what we will compare below.

The stand-alone unit is called the Hoss Garden Seeder. It is very strongly built and has two large 15” steel wheels. It does have a disc coulter type furrow opener which pushes the soil down and apart for the seeds to enter, then closes the furrow with a drag chain. Here are the basic comparison stats:
● Construction = Steel, Plastic, and Wood
● Row marker = optional
● Total # seed plates available = 13
● Seed size range = small to large
● Seed spacing range = 1.2” to 19”
● Spacing method = # holes in plate
● Opener type = Disc coulter
● Base cost, with 6 seed plates = $319

✔  Jang JP-1 Push Seeder

Jang seeder

The Jang seeder is considered to be the premium one for planting small seeds in a wide variety of spacings. They have a steel frame and handle, and plastic wheels, hopper, and seed rollers. Their seed plates are actually rollers (cylinders) with pockets or divots molded in. They rotate in the very bottom of a funnel shaped hopper, which makes it easy for small seeds to enter the pockets. As the roller rotates, seeds are carried around to the bottom where they drop down the tube.

Although this is a great garden seed planter for certain commercial growers, it does have a few drawbacks to be aware of. First, it is not meant for large seed – they have a whole different model called the TD-1 for big seeds. And there may be problems with some medium seeds like peas and corn jamming the rollers. Second, it is a little complex to set up for the spacing you want. There will be a combination of roller + front sprocket + rear sprocket for most any spacing, but you need to figure them out and install them. And third, it is not easy to make custom rollers, a drill press with a depth stop would be needed.

But for planting small seeds commercially, it is the best. The big advantages in planting single seeds at precise spacings are seed cost savings, labor cost savings in not having to thin, and easier weeding between the consistent gaps.

Here are the basic comparison stats:
● Construction = Steel + Plastic
● Row marker = optional
● Total # seed plates available = 58
● Seed size range = small to medium
● Seed spacing range = 0.5” to 20”
● Spacing method = roller + sprocket combinations
● Opener type = Shoe plow
● Seed roller cost = $21
● Base cost, with 6 seed plates = $531

Single Seed Planters that let you Stand Up

Getting seeds tucked down into the soil while standing up is a tricky operation. People have been inventing tools to do this for a few centuries. These tools have names like Jab Planter, Manual Seeder, and Corn Planter. They do require loose soil that is not covered with a thick layer of mulch. These garden seeder planters are most useful for bigger plantings of medium to large seeds like corn, peas, beans, or peanuts. Some will not work with tiny seeds like spinach or broccoli.

Although these manual seeders are more common on small family farms in Asia and Africa, there are a few available in the US. Below are the three most popular standing garden seed planters that are available here.   The brand name for each model is a link to the page the information and photo came from.

✔  Stand-n-Plant Jab Seeders

Stand-n-Plant Jab Seeder

This is nice simple design that comes in two heights for short and tall people. The tip or beak is pressed into the ground, then you manually drop a seed into the pipe. Once the seed is in, you squeeze the top grip to open the beak and release the seed. While the beak is still open, you lift the tool out of the soil. A quick action with your foot pushes a little soil into the hole to cover the seed, and on you go to the next spot.

Because the seed is dropped by your fingers, this seeder will work with tiny seeds. They do also make a large-bore version for dropping transplants through.

Here are the basic comparison stats:
● Construction = all Plastic
● Seed size range = small to large
● Seed Control = by hand
● Depth Control = none
● Height = 44" or 50"
● Base cost = $50

✔  Automatic Seed Planter

Automatic Jab Planter

This is the unit that thousands of small farms in Asia use for planting beans, peas, and other medium to large sized seeds. It has two hoppers; one for the seeds, and the other for granular fertilizer. The fertilizer is used to “side dress” which means to add a small amount of fertilizer a few inches away from the seed. As the plant grows, the roots reach over to the fertilizer. (it is not necessary to add fertilizer)

The action to use it is very simple and fast. Set the foot pad against the ground, press down on the handles to sink the beaks into the soil, then let the springs raise it back up to the starting position. Pick it up, kick some dirt into the holes, and move forward to the next spot.

Here are the basic comparison stats:
● Construction = Plastic and Steel
● Seed size range = medium to large
● Seed Control = roller (like Jang)
● Depth Control = 1.5" to 3"
● Height = 33"
● Base cost = $69

✔  Easy-Plant

Easy Plant Seeder

This manual planter uses a rocking or tilting motion to open the tip (the beak). To use it, you push it into the soil at a slight angle, then drop a seed down the chute by hand. Then you rock it forward so the foot out front presses against the soil and opens the beak. As you keep moving forward the beak is levered up and out of the soil.   (image credits to Johnny's and to The Martha Blog.)

This garden seeder does work through plastic film mulch, probably because the beak is so big that it tears a large enough hole in the film for the plant to grow up through. It is advertised as being for larger seeds (corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, and sunflowers) but it seems that by being careful about when you drop the seed that you could do small seeds with it also.

Here are the basic comparison stats:
● Construction = Wood and Steel
● Seed size range = small? to large
● Seed Control = by hand
● Depth Control = adjustable foot
● Height = 34"
● Base cost = $133

Template to seed while Kneeling

This is where we all start when our gardens are small and our garden seed planter is our fingers. If you only have a few short rows, or mixed crop types, it only takes a few minutes per row.

Seeding Square

The other gardeners who plant on hands and knees are those who dense plant in beds instead of rows, like the Square-Foot gardening method. These gardeners use geometric grid spacing of their seeds to best make use of the space, and get the plants close enough to shade out weeds, but not so close the crop plants compete with each other. To make grid planting easier there are templates like this for common vegetable spacings.   (image credit to Seeding Square.)