Jan 282008

EarthWay Precision Seeder
In North America, at least, the EarthWay Precision Seeder is in a class of its own. This is in good part due to the fact that it’s also the only seeder in its price range… Inexpensive at around $100US, it’s widely used in market gardens and nurseries, and probably larger home gardens as well. I’ve used one for five seasons (with no breakdowns, no repairs!). For direct seeding, for me it’s either the Earthway or by hand.

It certainly works well enough to get the job done, but it also has its drawbacks and requires quite a lot of getting used to. It can be a huge seed-waster, dropping more seed than necessary. It’s also prone to clogging and skipping depending on the type of seed. And you have to get used to it. For example, for bigger seed, I listen for the regular click of the seed going down the chute, and for all seed, I watch to see the seed hit the ground (you get used to it, you can even spot tiny carrot seed! :). So, it takes a fair bit of familiarity to use efficiently.

For a long while, a couple of decades at least, it was the only inexpensive seeder around that could take on bigger tasks. In recent years (maybe the last five), other single-row push seeders have appeared. They’re apparently more accurat, also, more expensive, but in the $500-1,000 range that makes economic sense for the market grower on probably half an acre or more, paying back through savings in seed and thinning time.

All that said, it’s still a useful machine at a great price.


  • Small seed, particularly from the brassica family, can get behind the seed plate, in turn causing less even seed distribution. Here’s an interesting fix (haven’t tried it yet, but I will).
  • See the comments below!
  • http://basketoflifefarm.com Eric

    We have an earthway that we’ve used for years and after countless hours of thinning just about everything except green beans and corn. We bought a jang ap-1 seeder from mechanical transplanter in Mich. with about a dozen seed wheels and put in 20 to 30 thousand feet in with it this year and I have to say it was probably the best $500.00 I’ve spent in a long time. It may be a touch pricey but compared to a stanhay not to bad.

  • Bill

    I have a couple earthway seeders for my home garden. While they’re faster than hand seeding, they have a lot of quirks that make them somewhat annoying to use. You gotta pay attention and listen to the seeds clink down the tube or you’ll end up with lots of skips and doubles. You can’t just put a little seed in them. They have to have a certain amount of seed or they won’t catch regularly. You gotta run them at an angle toward the plate side to get better catches. You are right that their price is low enough that they are within reach of most gardneners. I bought both of mine used for less than 20 bucks each.

  • Zac Helmberger

    I recently purchased the Earthway seeder in Vancouver, BC for about $175 CAD including the optional set of plates. The quality of the plastic seed plates has really gone downhill. My friend back in the states had an Earthway that had nice white plastic plates that were well made. The stuff that came with mine was lumpy and gray colored and had lots of plastic hanging on them that I had to peel off with a knife. Poor quality molds and poor quality plastic.
    Also the plates were not stiff enough to keep seeds from slipping behind the plate. Seeds with angular surfaces like onions, leeks and buckwheat would make terrible sounds when run in an earthway as the seeds work their way in between the plate and the hopper and grind away to make flour of your seed or it will send a seed flying about three feet into the air when it breaks free of its confines.
    It is so difficult to find anything in Canada. Companies seem to go out of their way to conceal the products they sell and then go out of business due to lack of sales.
    I would like to talk to other people who would be interested in making custom seed plates for the Earthway. It has so much potential. It’s sad to see so much potential being wasted by poor plate design and manufacture.
    By carefully shaping the holes/scoops in the plates, you can dramatically improve singulation of certain seeds. I’ve modified some wheels with my knife and improved the performance substantially. With better tools and non-sticky, easy to use filler materials, you can tweak just about any plate to work wonders.
    Is there anybody else in Canada (Vancouver) that would like to start a business making or distributing good, useful market garden tools? I know there’s a market for it ‘cuz there almost nobody selling the stuff. Believe me, I’ve called every number in the yellow pages under gardening or farming and none of them have ever heard of a “Hula Hoe” or “Stirrup Hoe”.

  • http://www.socalfishfarm.com/blog/online-hydropnic-supply-store/aerogarden/ Ursula

    Thank you. I need this for the garden I am about to begin

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  • Zachrey Helmberger

    Following up on my previous post, I think I discovered why there is this jerking and grinding action with certain combinations of seeds and plates! Insufficient clearance!

    The reason certain seeds cause the jerking motion and crunching sound and subsequent catapulting of the seeds in the spoons or scoops is that the diameter of the seed is greater than the distance between the outer edge of the scoop and the curved side wall of the seed hopper. If a seed get forced against the funnel shaped side wall of the black plastic seed hopper by the outer portion of the seed scoop wheel, it will momentarily stop the rotation of the seed wheel and build up tension in the driver belt. When the seed or scoop finally breaks or shifts under pressure, the potential energy stored in the tensioned driver belt is released to the seeds in the scoops (waiting to be dropped down the chute) and are violently ejected from the hopper thus causing violent language and thoughts to the otherwise happy customer.
    If the clearance between the bottom part of the hopper that curves inward towards the seed plate and the outermost portion of the scoops on the seeder plate is less than the diameter of your seed, you need to modify one or the other so that the minimum clearance is 1.5 times or 2.5 times the diameter of the seed.
    For example, I used the beet plate for “Dwarf Gray Sugar” sugar snap peas with excellent singulation but quite a bit of jamming. What I plan to do is purchase another beet plate and trim down the scoops so they don’t reach out quite so far into the hopper space.
    Another possibility is to create an insert out of clay or stiff wax or something that prevents the seed from falling into that one area with insufficient clearance. Hopefully it should not interfere with seed making it into the scoop. This might be the best, more universal, solution.

    This situation is different, I believe, from the brassica seed grinding problem where the seeds are falling between the rotor (seed plate) and stator (side of hopper with the driver wheel).

    • Anonymous

      Great analysis! I love the whole idea of finetuning the crazily approximate, loosely built Earthway, it’s like a cult and a lifelong labor of…love? :) The idea of modifying the plates is cool in theory, but I wonder how often seed size changes enough to throw things off again? A couple of years, I’ve had new batches of spinach and peas for the very same variety change in average size so much that I couldn’t use the standard plate I’d been using before. I’m not sure how often this happens on a less obvious level. Still, it’s worth considering if varying seed size for the same crop will make too much plate-tuning kinda neverending, or whether a few basic customizations would be good most of the time.