May 15th, 2012

Sowing Seeds in Hills

Excuse me, but just what is a flat hill? I read about a gardening expert who plants her squash in flat hills. I don’t know what that means.

blog-dougIn gardening parlance, “hill” refers to a cluster of plants—usually vining vegetables such as squash, melons, or cucumbers—that have been sown as a group. I suppose the term got its start in an exceptionally rainy climate where raised planting was necessary to provide drainage for such crops. In this situation, or in poorly drained soil, it’s customary to make a small mound of soil upon which the seeds are planted—a literal hill.

But in regions where soil drainage is adequate or rainfall is scarce, the mounds dry out quickly. In most cases it’s better to form a shallow basin in the soil and plant the seeds in the middle of it. The basin facilitates watering through the course of summer. And even though there’s no elevated ground involved, gardeners refer to this technique as “planting in hills.”

Seed packets for pumpkins and other sprawling crops often recommend planting in hills. The usual procedure is to plant 8 or 10 seeds in a circle about a foot across. Once the seeds are up and growing, select the most robust 3 or 4 seedlings and pull out the rest. Space the hills of rangy melons and squash up to 10 feet apart; those of compact cucumbers or bush-style zucchinis can be much closer.  —Doug Hall

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