Quick Guide to Choosing a Seeder

Quick-Guide to Choosing a Seeder

Selecting a Seeder for Small-Scale Growing: Efficiency, Precision, Affordability

When it's time to choose a new seeder, growers and gardeners look for a design that suits their individual style and strikes the right balance between efficiency, precision, and affordability.

We developed this guide to help inform the decision-making process of small-scale growers and gardeners researching different types of seeders. Here are the aspects to that process that we cover here.

  • To begin, there are the Main Goals of Direct-Seeding, which are important to keep in mind while considering the many Factors that Will Influence Your Decision, some of which will carry more weight than others in your calculation.
  • A review of the Key Advantages & Limitations of each of our most popular seeder designs will give you a better sense of what these tools can and cannot do.
  • A variety of Comparison Charts, Assembly & Instruction Manuals, and Demonstration Videos provide Further Resources on the features and options available for different types of seeders.
  • Perhaps equally informative when choosing a piece of farming equipment is talking with others about their experience. We've recently been in touch with a wide diversity of growers, to learn what they have to say about their seeders, and include some of their input and feedback here as well.

This information should help put you in a position to determine your best option — and if you have additional questions, you can always give us a call!

Main Factors that Influence Your Purchase
Main Goals of a Seeder
  • Make good soil-seed contact.
  • Place seed at desired depth to create conditions of optimum soil temperature, moisture, and emergence, which are critical to a successful yield.
  • Drops seed at a favorable density, so that you can make minimal returns to fill in missing or failed plants.
  • Create even and straight rows, as well as achieve in-row and between-row spacing that is consistent and appropriate to the crop and cultivation methods, leading to a uniform stand that requires minimal cultivation, thinning, and weeding.

Which goals and factors are most important for you?

Cost

  • What can your budget accommodate?
  • The right seeder can save enormous amounts of time, and precise seed placement saves seed — how soon before you want or need to recoup your investment?

Scale of operation

  • How big are you now, and how big will you want to go?
    • Commercial: >10 acres
    • Farmers' market: <10 acres
    • Home garden

Maneuverability/Seeding Location

  • Are you seeding out in open field rows, smaller plots, or under cover, in a hoophouse, greenhouse, or other tight spaces?

Specific Crops vs Versatility

  • How many different types of crops are you planting?
  • How far apart do you need to drop seed, and how widely spaced do you want your rows or beds?
  • How big are the seeds, what shape are they, and do they flow easily? Do you want to use a pelleted seed option?

Efficiency

  • Are you willing to do some tinkering, to get your equipment set up and calibrated?
  • Do you want to be able to modify your set-up to seed a different crop or accommodate a different set of seeding conditions?
  • Can you afford to spend time making returns to fill in the bare spots?
  • How much time can you allot to thinning overseeded rows?
  • How much maintenance and servicing will your equipment require?

Reliability & Repeatability

  • A good seeder conserves seed when properly calibrated.
  • Repeatability allows you to plan your production needs and yields in advance.

Adaptability

  • Do you want to be able to readily scale up or down, swap out crops, fertilize with your equipment, or use your seeder in a variety of situations?

Ground Conditions

  • What degree of bed preparation is required?
EarthWay Precision Garden Seeder
  • Most commonly used, push-type seeder.
  • Least expensive; a cost-effective option for home garden or beginning market gardens. Perfect for a beginning gardener, or a grower with a half-acre or larger operation on a shoestring budget.
  • Design allows for seeding in a continuous operating motion by opening the furrow, planting and spacing the seed, covering and packing the soil.
  • Adjustable 30" row marker can be set to the desired between-row spacing to mark your next row, enabling you to achieve parallel rows.
  • One revolution of the EarthWay = 36", so with 1 full rotation of the wheel, you get 3' of direct-seeded row.
  • Comes with a set of 6 seed plates suitable for planting over 20 common types of vegetables. Selection of Optional Seed Plates also available.
  • Adequate performance: the EarthWay plates are set up so they drop seed in clusters. In other words, there may be wasted seed, and follow-up thinning required.
  • Works best with larger seeds and a well-filled hopper, not with smaller seeds or an underloaded hopper.

    According to Matt Neves, our Greenhouse Maintenance Tech and former Tools & Supplies Trial Tech:

    "If someone is seeding longer rows — for example, 100'-foot rows of corn — the EarthWay is a 'pretty-darned-good' tool to do it with. Crops such as peas, corns, beans, these larger-sized seeds fill the hopper up and are appropriate for wider in-row spacing in longer rows. For this purpose, the EarthWay is adequate.
    "In contrast, the EarthWay is less than ideal for seeding small-seeded crops, where you do not want a lot of variation in spacing — for example, brassicas, where you may want to drop a seed every inch rather than one per 16", or if you're seeding a row of mustard greens or finely dropped Amara.

    "Although, if you're able to take a more laissez-faire approach to gardening, or you don't need to make the most out of every square inch of your prepared ground, this may be fine."


  • Hopper is uncovered, exposing seed to the elements.
  • Can be easily converted into a fertilizer/side dresser with the EarthWay Fertilizer Attachment.
  • Not as rugged as Jang seeders, although its lightweight design makes it usable by nearly everyone.
  • According to Paul Gallione, Certified Crop Advisor and Johnny's Territory Sales Rep, who still has the EarthWay Seeder he bought back in 1991, the Earthway is a "Jack of all trades, master of none." He used it as his primary seeder for years, but adds, "In terms of the 'ride,' going from an EarthWay to a Jang JP-1 is like trading in a '68 Volkswagon — jiggle, wiggle, and shake! — for a brand-new Cadillac."
Glaser Seeder
    The Glaser is an adaptable, easy to use seeder.
    Adaptible & compatible with other Glaser components.
    "The Glaser Seeder is very effective for small round seeds; we find that it nicely complements the EarthWay."
    — Jean-Martin Fortier
  • Sowing accomplished by walking backward while pulling the seeder.
  • The body of seeder opens a seed "drill" or shaft; the seed is placed in the drill; and the rear roller wheel then tamps the seed into the soil.
  • The shaft can be quickly adjusted, but has only 3 hole sizes: 2mm (roughly equivalent to 116"), 3mm (~332"), and 4mm ( ~⅛"); and will sow seeds at 1" (~25mm) in-row spacing only. (Pelleted carrots, for example, are usually too large for this seeder.)
  • Effective for small, round seeds. If seeds are too small, however, they can lodge in or fall through crevices.
  • Depth of furrow can be controlled by lowering or raising the hand or by altering pressure of seeder against the soil.
  • Transparent seed hopper cover allows for easy viewing of contents and helps prevents seed loss, humidity, and contamination.
  • Can be configured with a variety of compatible Glaser components for a range of applications. These include various Glaser Wheel Hoe Attachments and Conversion Kits.
Four-Row Pinpoint Seeder
Six-Row Seeder
  • Designed for densely spaced crops (salad/brassica mixes).
  • Must have fine tilth for optimum performance; increased bed preparation needed.
  • More efficient than the Four-Row Seeder, but also less wieldy.
  • Easier to retrieve seed from the hoppers than from those of the Four-Row Seeder.
  • More adjustable than Four-Row Seeder.
  • Includes front roller, which helps it function in wider range of conditions than the Four-Row Seeder.
  • Two passes seeds a 30" bed, compared to three passes with the Four-Row Seeder.
  • Does not tolerate a lot of field debris.
  • Highly reliable, with proper calibration and bed preparation.
Jang TD Precision Seeder Series
  • Designed specifically to singulate large seeds, even flat ones, in long rows.
  • Functions well even with a small amount of seed in the hopper.
  • Large (7.3-quart/7-liter), transparent, lidded hopper makes it easy to monitor and protect your seed, and its quick release, funnel-shaped design facilitates retrieving unused seed and swapping out plates.
  • Selection of seed plates available, as well as customizable blanks. Seed plates come in thicknesses of 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm, with various hole diameters. Plain, blank plates or predrilled "pilot" plates can be ordered to customize your own.
  • Seeds are dropped at spacings that range from 2⅜" all the way out to 84". Spacing is adjustable by using sprockets to determine exact drop.
  • Scalable with the use of multiple hoppers and seed plates, to seed multiple rows at once. You can start with just the Jang TD-1, and eventually upgrade to tractor-mount versions and still use most accessories.
  • May be on the heavy side for some people.
  • Widely used; reliable and repeatable.
  • Could be seen as expensive, but fits an important niche.
  • Less versatile than the Jang JP Series, but — after all — it has a different specialization.
Jang JP Seeder Series
  • Designed for small- to medium-size seeds (some functionality with larger sizes).
  • Very versatile, with a multitude of seed-roller and plow-shoe options (double-row double-disc openers), as well as customizable blanks.
  • Conserves seed by virtue of the selection of rollers and brush adjustments.
  • Can plant at spacings that range from ½" to 20", depending on roller and sprocket selection.
  • Reliable and repeatable.

    What is repeatability? Again, we asked Matt Neves, our former Tools Trial Technician and current Greenhouse Tech.

    "Let's say you use the JP-1 to seed beets, and you know that you've got a roller that works well with beets, and the brushes set at a specific dimension work great every time (whereas with the EarthWay, you may get more spottiness, and more irregularly shaped rows — sometimes requiring two passes to seed to maximal potential yield). Most farmers prefer not to spend time thinning, and consider it wasted time. With the Jang dialed in, you can achieve beet rows with very close to the desired seeding rate. This potentially cuts out hours and hours of thinning later on in the season. You can be confident that you're going to get the desired effect out of the seeder.

    "The entire Jang line is reliable and repeatable — the EarthWay... not so much — you'll still get a great stand of beets, but potentially you're going to have to thin — for home gardeners, this may not be problematic. And depending on soil conditions, this may sometimes be achievable with a Six-Row Seeder, or the Four-Row Pinpoint Seeder.

    "These other designs offer an inexpensive way to complete most jobs at least adequately, for some people —  different designs work for different people and purposes — for example, the home gardener who really doesn't want to spend a lot of money on a seeder and doesn't mind some inefficiency."


  • So, the Jang JP Series could be regarded as expensive — but on the basis of its abilities and performance, the cost may be justifiable for you.
  • Widely used. "In my opinion, this is a must-have for farmers with market-size operations." — Matt Neves
  • Scalable: Options include hoppers, rollers, and plow heads, all compatible with multi-row versions. You can start with just the JP-1 and eventually upgrade to JP-3 or JP-6, and still be able to use the parts originally purchased. There is no need to buy an entire new system (for some people at least), as the scale of the operation grows — all the way up to tractor-mount units. Tractor-mount versions (JPH-U) use the same hoppers and rollers.
  • The Jang JP Seeder is not as particular about soil conditions as some seeders; able to more precisely handle rougher terrain than other seeders.
  • Rugged construction, though it may be on the heavy side for some people.

Growers & Their Jangs — Some Recommendations & Feedback

Having recently expanded our line of Jang Seeders, we wanted to follow up with our customers and find out how well the equipment was working out for them. We checked in with a diversity of growers and gardeners around the country who had recently purchased a Jang Seeder from Johnny's, and asked for feedback about utility, value, and performance.

Kevin Leavitt, Farmer Kev's Organic, West Gardiner, Maine

We met up with Kevin one morning in late April, when the fields were still somewhat cloddy and damp. Kevin had prepped row after row of 100-foot-long raised beds, despite an exceptionally cool, wet spring, and we were eager to see if the fields were dry enough to plant. Kevin loaded three alternating hoppers of his new Jang JP-6W, and as you can see in the video clip below, was able to sow three rows concurrently in just a few minutes. We hope the Jang JP-6W proves invaluable in his rapidly expanding farmshare delivery business here in Central Maine.



Brittany & Kevin Overshiner, Upswing Farm, Hopkinton, Massachusetts

Upswing Farm is a small, diversified vegetable farm on the border of Ashland and Holliston, Massachusetts, run by Brittany and Kevin Overshiner. Brittany shared the following about her Jang Seeders with Ken Fine, her Territory Sales Rep. "Bought the first one in 2012… Worth every penny… With the various rollers and by modifying the gear settings you can use a precise amount of seed… This conserves seed and, more importantly, results in NO THINNING." Brittany and Kevin use other methods at Upswing for large-seed crops such as peas and beans.

Brandon Dodge, Rastafarm, Reisterstown, Maryland

Rastafarmi is a small organic farm in Reisterstown (Boring), Maryland run by Brandon and his partner Megan. When Territory Sales Rep, Paul Gallione, asked Brandon for feedback about his new Jang, Brandon reported that he was very happy. "It took a few weeks to get used to it," he added, but then it was great. Brandon and Paul reviewed the Johnny's Roller Trial Results / Variety Cross-Reference Chart, a spreadsheet that lists which Jang Roller works best for direct-sowing over 200 crop varieties/seed types. Brandon said he thought Johnny's product-support information was excellent, and gave the following recommendation to prospective Jang customers: "Buy it… Learn it… It WILL work!"

Liz Graznak, Happy Hollow Farm, Jamestown, Missouri

Happy Hollow Farm is an organic operation nestled in the foothills of the Missouri River, where Liz Graznak grows produce to supply CSA shares and sell at the Columbia farmer's market. Liz has a background in plant breeding and also does trials with Missouri State University on her farm. Territory Sales Rep, Randy Cummings talked with Liz about the Jang Seeder she recently purchased.

"It takes more time to set up for the seed you want to use, but once it is set up it is easier to use than the EarthWay. It does a good job tamping the seed, much better than the EarthWay. It does a much better job seeding carrots… In the past, I've shied away from direct-seeding because the EarthWay isn't that fabulous, but I think I'll be doing more direct-seeding because of the Jang… I plan on picking up more rollers for it in the future. I definitely like it… I heard about the Jang at the MOSES conference years ago from another vendor, but when I was ready I found it was easier to buy it from Johnny's. The Jang Seeder for me is one of those purchases for which I felt I needed to reach a certain point financially, as I had been using the EarthWay up until this time. I bought the EarthWay, then the Six-Row Seeder for all my babyleaf in the high tunnel, and this year decided it was time to buy the Jang.… Four weeks ago was my first big seeding, but we struggled with 11 inches of rain, which washed everything out. Just this last week I was able to get back out to work the ground again, reshaping beds, and used the Jang again to seed."

Jeff Scott, Vina, Alabama

Jeff is a methodical, mechanically-oriented individual who after retiring from the US Army, decided to apply his ingenuity to growing crops. First he built himself a high tunnel with help from a NRSC grant, then installed rain-water catchment as well as an elegant drip irrigation system. Next he designed a dirt sifter to prepare superfine topsoil so he could grow straight carrots. He also devised an attachment for his tractor tiller to spit out 40"-wide, 5"-tall, perfectly flat-surfaced beds in his tunnel. "Design is the biggest part of fun," according to Jeff. "It's been as much of a science lab as a growing exercise." He's also "exploring the finer options of composting." It thus comes as no surprise that when he was ready to buy a seeder, he researched his options carefully. "I watched some YouTube videos, and talked to some of my neighbors. They have the EarthWay Seeder. I listened to what they had to say, then talked to Rod [Heyerdahl]," his regional Territory Sales Representative. "I elected to get a Jang, and the next question was whether to get the single-, two-, or three-row version. I went with the three-row because it was more versatile — more options. I'm all about options, and the more options I've got, the better I like it."

Alex Nielsen, Ukiah, California

Finally we heard from the West Coast, where Territory Sales Rep Brian Boyce asked commercial grower Alex Nielsen how his new Jang was working out for him. Alex had simply this to say: "Love it!"

OTHER TYPES OF SEEDERS

Every grower has a style all their own, and seeders therefore come in a range of designs to suit different functions and grower needs. Here are some additional types of seeders to fit various other seeding purposes.

  • Ev-n-Spred Seeder/Spreader
    This seeder is designed by the reliable people at EarthWay to perform a function that is almost as old as the practice of agriculture — hand-sowing by scattering seed across a broad area. Lightweight and easy to carry, the Ev-n-Spred is useful for broadcasting cover crops or grass seed, and can also be used to spread fertilizer or other particulate amendments. Spread widths are determined by the particle size and density.
  • Easy-Plant Jab-Type Seeder
    This seeder, too, is lightweight and easy to carry and use in an upright position, but in contrast to the Ev-n-Spred, the Easy-Plant Jab-Type Seeder is specifically designed for pinpoint-planting of large-seeded crops such as sunflowers, corn, beans, pumpkins, and squash. It can drill through mulch and is very handy for filling in bare spots.
Use Seed, Time & Labor to Best Advantage

The right seeder allows a grower to save seed, time, and labor. Depending on your unique situation, choosing which one is right for you can be a straightforward or complex exercise, involving an expenditure from only a few dollars to much, much more. If you need more information after reviewing this guide, we offer the additional resources listed below. It can be very useful to jot down questions or concerns you may have, and if you have the opportunity, talk to other growers in your area or get in touch with your local Cooperative Extension Agent. By this point you will have likely made up your mind — but if you're still not certain which type of seeder is your best option, we are only a phone call away!

References & Additional Resources