Pelleted Seeds: Why and How to Use Them

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As you're selecting garden seeds to sow indoors or out, you may notice that some packets are marked "pelleted seed." What does this mean and what are the implications for gardener and garden?

Pelleted lettuce seed is to the left; "naked" lettuce seed is on the right. The pelleted seed is easier to handle.

Pelleted lettuce seed is to the left; "naked" lettuce seed is on the right. The pelleted seed is easier to handle.

Pelleted seeds were developed for commercial growers who use machines to sow seeds. Pelleted seeds are simply normal plant seeds that have been coated to give them a round, smooth, uniform shape and size, making it less likely for them to jam a mechanical seeder, and increasing the accuracy of the seeder in terms of spacing. 

Pelleted seeds are also helpful to the home gardener because they are easy to see and handle, especially when compared with the "naked" version of tiny seeds like tomatoes and lettuce. 

There are only two precautions to take when using pelleted seeds. First, be sure that the growing medium remains consistently moist, but not soggy, after you've sown the seed and you're waiting for it to sprout. Secondly, use all of your pelleted seed in the season that you purchase it, or dispose of any that's leftover. Pelleting shortens the lifespan of the seed, so pelleted seeds shouldn't be relied upon to sprout the next year.

Image credit: Dwight Sipler, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.com