In previous issues, we discussed how to dig planting holes and place fertiliser in them. The next step is to sow the seeds. In this example, we assume that maize is being grown. First, pour 2l of water into each hole. After it has soaked away, place three seeds on the layer of soil on top of the fertiliser. Then cover the seeds evenly with 2cm to 3cm of soil that has no clods or stones in it. Use your hands for this, rather than pushing the pile in with your feet. Planting the seeds carefully is extremely important and will help to determine whether you have a good or a poor crop.
Why three seeds?
About three weeks after germination, remove the weakest seedling by hand. The normal practice is to plant two seeds per hole. Planting the extra seed increases your chances of having a full, even stand – which helps to ensure a good crop. A solid canopy of leaves across the rows shades the weeds out and means less water evaporation from the soil. If there are gaps in the rows, the sun will dry out the surface, and the weeds will grow vigorously, competing with the crop.
Evenness of growth in the crop is equally important. If the plants grow unevenly, the bigger plants will overshadow the smaller ones, stunting them. These stunted plants don’t produce cobs, yet rob moisture and nutrients from the bigger plants, reducing your yield. To sum up: plant three seeds 3cm deep, and get rid of the weakest seedling three weeks after germination. Follow these steps and your yield could increase by up to 3t/ha! Investing the extra money and time is certainly worth the reward.
For more about Foundations of farming, visit www.foundationsforfarming.org.