Multisowing

The vegetables I have found worth sowing and growing in clumps

For certain vegetables, there are considerable benefits of sowing two or more seeds together, as opposed to a single seed per module or station:

  1. Grow more plants in the same area of propagating space
  2. Use less compost to propagate the same number of plants
  3. Save time because you are planting two or more at once.
  4. There is a companion effect: I observe how plants like being with their friends in clumps.

Because you can grow more plants in the same space, it’s feasible to grow more early crops of say turnips and radish, at a time when warmth for propagating is scarce and precious, in February and early March. Harvests of radish and turnips in April and May are welcome as ‘hungry gap’ vegetables, when fresh food is scarce. You then have time to clear the crop residues before plantings of summer beans, courgettes, brassicas etc.

In my experience, other vegetables not mentioned here make better harvests as singles. For example cabbage and lettuce to make hearts, swede to make large roots.

  • It’s easier to pick the outer leaves off single lettuce plants, then off those in groups of two or three.
  • On the other hand, it works well to pick larger leaves off two or three salad rocket plants in a clump.
  • Broad/fave beans are an exception because they ‘tiller’, making many stems from one seed, so they are best sown as single seeds.
  • Parsnips and carrots grow best from direct sowing, in terms of making a long, non-forked tap root. Nonetheless you can transplant them, and carrots are feasible in clumps.

My suggested numbers for great harvests

You can vary the numbers according to the size of vegetable you want. Only do not sow too many root vegetables in a clump, or you will have more leaf in proportion to root, meaning the roots will stay small.

  • For medium size plants and high yield, the first number is my suggestion for number of seeds to sow, per module.
  • The second number is how many plants can grow to a harvestable size in clumps, allowing for non germination of some seeds, and for multiple germination in the case of beetroot + chard.

 

Charles’ multisow veg Seeds per clump Desired plants per clump
Basil 3 or 4 2 or 3
Beetroot 4 4
Chard for salad/ to cook 4/2 3-5/1-2
Chervil, coriander, dill, parsley 3 2
Fennel, Florence 3 1 or 2
Kale for salad 4 3
Leek 5 or 6 2 to 4
Onion for bulbs 6 or 7 4 or 5
Onion for salad 8 or 10 6 or 8
Oriental leaves to cook 2 1
Oriental leaves for salad 4 3
Peas for pods 2 or 3 1 or 2
Peas for shoots 4 or 5 3 or 4
Radish 5 or 6 4 or 5
Rocket, salad and wild 3 or 4 2 or 3
Spinach for salad 4 3 or 4
Turnip 5 3 or 4

Your feedback

On my You Tube onion video, comment by Dylan Fogarty-MacDonald 11/08/18
Today I harvested my onions which I grew following this method. 36 modules, multi-sown with 8 seeds and we transplanted 20 modules. We harvested around 30 spring onions in May and today I harvested 98 mostly good sized onions (a few small ones amongst the plump ones). Happy about this as it was grown in such a small space and gave us multiple harvests through the season. Thanks Charles!

37 thoughts on “Multisowing

  1. Thanks Charles, much appreciate this information. In terms of growing medium, I notice in your YT videos you often sow into your homemade compost and sometimes into MP compost. Does this depend on how hungry the plants are? In case of homemade compost, I suspect this has to be very well aged?
    Best regards,

    Gabor, Hemel Hempstead

    1. Hi Gabor
      I mostly use bought MP compost because it’s so much quicker, not needing to sieve, and mostly as you say, one does not have enough old compost!

  2. Should you leave more space between clumps than you would between single plants (thinking specifically of onions, but curious about other veggies too)? Thank you!

  3. Parsnip multisowing: after last year’s dismal failure with direct sowing (too wet then too hot!) I’m having a crack at multisowing parsnips (4 per cell) – any comments or tips gratefully received!

    1. Hmm too wet should not happen with mulched no dig beds. Mine came up well from 1st April sowing.
      Multisown parsnips need planting when v small before tap root reaches the bottom & forks.

  4. Hi,

    Is it for beetroot better to use 4 seeds, or maybe just 2 because mostly 2 plants comes out of 1 seed.
    Don’t they get problems after all because its a root vegetable?
    I have a lot of perspex trays ready to use for it.
    Greets from the Netherlands!

    1. Yes Robert but some seeds don’t germinate, and 4 means occasional thinning to 4 or 5 plants, with all modules full.
      Beetroots are actually swellings of the stem above actual roots.
      Have fun with sowing.

  5. Giving us directions about the number of plants per station is very important.
    It is incomplete however at least to my opinion.
    There should be another column with the minimum distance between the stations since the distances will grow now that we have more than one plant per station.
    For example, what would be a good distance between multisown leek stations?
    Thanks!

    1. I agree it is not complete Apostolos. I need scope to sell some information, and you sound ungrateful for all the free advice here. Why not watch my Leeks video (free) and I show the spacing there.

      1. Charles, I did not think about the selling potential so you are probably right at what you say.
        No intention to sound ungrateful. Far from it.
        It just did not occur to me what you just pointed out.
        Thanks

  6. Hi Charles,

    I learnt so much last year from your YouTube channel and had a few successes. I’m hoping for better this year and bought your Diary. However, I was hoping for a bit more handholding for each veg type, spacing, and succession in particular. I always felt behind last year and didn’t get things in to overwinter. What book do you recommend? Is the No Dig Home & Garden book more appropriate for my needs? I have a shady garden, and things like Multisown radish, beets and turnips didn’t come to much, but I discovered the radish flowers and seeds were fab and the greens were very welcome. So as a side note, does the cookery book I’ve seen you promote cover eating all the bits of the crops, like radish seed heads and turnip greens for example? Keep up the excellent work!

    1. Hi Susan, nice you are going for it and year one can be tricky. A shady garden means probably tree roots are pulling moisture away from your vegetables. You need beds that are not close to trees. Some shade is not bad of itself.
      My Organic Gardening book has specific details for most veg, Steph’s cookery book concentrates on main veg, some tips on those fringe harvests!

  7. Hi Charles, I’ve got your calendar which I’m following to the letter and your book which is on my bedside table. Looking forward to see how my veg patch unravels! I only have budget for one and wanted to ask your views: should I go for the online course or your one day at Homeacres? I wish I could do both but this year I can only afford one. I already know what Santa’s letter will say this year though !

    1. Thanks Bea nice to hear, and best go for whichever course you most want to do – each will offer lots of help, in different ways

  8. Hi Charles

    We have the diary and the create a veg garden books (and calendar). You seem to suggest multi sow spinach in the late winter/spring but only have one to plant out (sow 2, thin to 1) when planning to over winter. Is that correct?

    We can’t say how much of an inspiration you are to us. Old raised plastic beds repositioned and made hugels (not your subject) and whole swaths of garden down to black plastic! First greenhouse, boundry refenced and hedging planted, polytunnels to come, micro greens growing, early veg seed sown indoors and square foot no dig going to be tried in the hugels whilst we wait for the black plastic to do it’s stuff 🙂 Not sure how woodlice wil be in a hugel but here’s to the learning !

    1. Great you are trying so many things Deborah.
      Yes the overwintered spinach makes sideshoots and becomes multiheading in many cases.

  9. Any thoughts on mustard greens for desired clumping or possibly like lettuce a green that prefers a single cell to itself?

  10. Hi Charles,

    Thanks so much for all your work, and the idea of multisowing, I think it’s really going to transform our growing this year!

    I had a question about carrots. Our soil is very clay rich and sow we’ll be doing the parisian type, the small balls, and I wondered if you had any experience with them using this technique, or if you had any thoughts around whether it would work?

    Thanks!
    Sinead

  11. Hi Charles
    I’m having a serious go at vegetable growing this year and can’t wait to try this method with beetroots, spring onions and some herbs!
    Unrelated to veggies, but can you use this multi sowing method with any flower seed? I have DOZENS of seed packets I’ve collected over the last couple of years and would like to use up a significant chunk, whilst still getting successful flowers..
    Any advice would be much appreciated.
    Cheers!
    Jo

    1. Hi Jo and yes you can, but tailored to how you want to grow and pick them, so numbers will vary for every flower you grow, try a few things

  12. Thanks to the blog post.
    I search for “multi sowing” after watched your propagation (2) video on youtube and google send me here 🙂
    Big thanks for your great videos, they made me a better gardener 🙂

  13. Hi Charles,

    I have been gardening for years the “old fashioned” way, but find as I’m getting older that it is just too labor intensive. Then I discovered you and it all made perfect sense and I’m already having great results – tons of multi-sown radishes just about ready to harvest. Thank you for the lovely videos with clear instructions. Just wish I were in UK so I could attend one of your classes.

  14. I was given your name by a young market gardener here on Vancouver Island. I am in a town lot and I am trying to establish new beds over a lawn using your methods. So far the results are terrific. We have had many salads so far this spring and beneath them are potatoes, between the early covered cabbage are onions planyed in clusters and the current garden awaits new starts (in my spare bedroom) I overplanted my seedlings of peas, melons, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, celery, radish, corn….and more….so I share the spoils with work mates and tell them to follow your videos and to buy the calendar which I bought and used. I will delay the date by a week or so next spring. Thank you for your advice. And thanks to the young market gardener for letting me know about you!

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