A basic guide to choosing a Seeder for your nursery

Author: Aaron Chen  Date Posted:3 February 2020 

Seeders are machines that help nurseries and horticulturists sow seeds.They help distribute the seeds properly and consistantly on soil or trays. These machines are much more accurate compared to planting by hand. Large scale nurseries and gardens will need seeder machines to help them to improve quality of plants, save time, and energy resulting in reduced costs.

This simple guide helps you learn and understand how a seeder works, what types of seeders exist, and give ideas on which seeder is best for your nursery.

Types of Seeders:

There are many types of seeders with their own specialties. Every garden or nursery may own one or more of these types. Here are the common types:

  1. Belt seeder – This type makes circular holes which has uniform spacing and intervals to accommodate the seeds. Coated seeds improve the consistency of placing seeds. The vacuum seeder has better spacing compared to this seeder.
  2. Vacuum Seeder - Coated seeds are not recommended for this type of seeder. The vacuum type is more accurate than the belt type in terms of spacing. It can cater for a wide range of seeds but is not very good at singulating.
  3. Pneumatic Seeder – The seed is blown into the soil in tubes. This is recommended for large types of seeds.
  4. Plate Seeder- Seeds are dropped into a notch in the plate and are transferred to the drop point. The plate type seeder will have a difficult time singulating round-shaped seeds. Seeds are prone to scatter due to the distance of the drop from the hopper to the soil.
  5. Spoon Seeder- Seeds are scooped up by small spoons and carried to the “drop shoot”. The spoon makes a turn and then drops the seed. The spacing will depend on the number of spoons and the fit/clearances of gears. Different kinds of spoons are available for different kinds of seed sizes.
  6. Grooved Cylinder Seeder- Round seeds or coated seeds that are made round by coating are required by this seeder. The seeds will fall from a tube to a slot at the top of a case into a cylinder. The cylinder will turn slowly to the bottom of the case where the seeds will drop from a diagonal slot. This is best used for small seeds.

Nurseries use different kinds of seeders depending on the seeds they need to sow. Different types of seeders have been designed in the market place to suit specific applications but sometimes, diffent seeds call for different machines.  That is why the seeders mentioned below are made with a combination of machine designs and parts that work as a whole. This tends to makes them more efficient for a variety of seeds than purpose built equipment.. 

The common types of these “combined” machines are the bar seeders and the drum seeders. Such seeders are made of different parts so that the seeder can do the work from planting to watering in the one production line. The end products are trays of seeds waiting to be transferred to the hot houses for germination.

The Bar Seeder

How Does the Bar Seeder Work?

A bar seeder is a seeder that moves trays containing soil along a transport belt. The transport belt transfers the trays from one machine part to another.The dibbling unit then creates holes in the soil and then places the seeds in the holes created. (The action of creating such holes is called dibbling or dibble.)

After placing the seeds in the holes, the vermiculite dispenser then covers the holes with Vermiculite and perlite (Vermiculite and perlite are materials used to help with the moisture retention and soil aeration). 

Finally, the watering unitwaters the seeds and the seeds (on the trays) are then ready for transfer to the green house. 

Here are the main parts of a Bar Seeder:

1. Dibbling Unit

It is a device that dibbles the cells of a tray. It creates uniform holes or dibblesbefore seeding.

2. Drum for Vermiculite (Vermiculite Dispenser)

After the seeds are sown, the dispenser dispenses vermiculite. The use of vermiculite is ideal for the germination of seeds due to its water holding abilities.

3. Watering Unit

The watering bar waters the seeds with the exact amount needed. It is precise and accurate compared to manual watering.  

The Drum Seeder

The drum seeder is a machine that creates a hole on the soil otherwise called as “dibbling”.

It then places the seed in the hole and then covers it with vermiculite, perlite, sand, peat, water, and stacks.

The drums are changeable where you can make it plant various types of seeds into various types of trays.

There are 3 types of Drums in Drum Seeders:

1. Single drum sowing head

This type has an electronic speed control on the transport conveyor belt. The sowing drums are allowed many seeds per hole without having to change the drum. (A transport conveyor belt is responsible for transferring the tray to other parts of the seeder. It is designed like a belt with pulleys. It moves in a continuous loop.)

2. Double drum sowing heads 

This type of drum allows seeds to be arranged in astaggered cell pattern. (A staggered cell pattern is a kind of arrangement or order. Cells are the spaces in the tray where the soil and seeds are placed.)

3. Triple drum sowingheads

This type of drum allows three different types of seed for sowing. This is recommended for sowing flowers with different colors.

The Importance of These Seeders

Both seeders are very important because they can save time and energy.

Why Should Nurseries Use Seeders?

  • Because there will be no excess seeds. Money is saved by buying seeds that are only needed to be sown. By using seeders, seeds are not wasted compared to manual planting where seeds are prone to be wasted due to miscalculation and other factors.
  • Because seeders help nurseries achieve uniformity due to the right spacing the seeder gives. This leads to better growth and survival of the seeds and plants.

How Should Nurseries Choose The Right Seeders To Use?

Choosing seeders will depend on certain factors:

  1. Cost – How much are you willing to spend for a seeder machine? Will you save more money by purchasing one?
  2. Seeding speed – how fast can the seeder sow seeds?
  3. Flexibility – can the seeder sow different kinds of seeds or do they only sow one kind?
  4. Production – Do you need to sow large quantities? Or is manual labour enough?

Which Seeder Should You Choose?

If you want to use a seeder for sowing seeds of the same kind in one sitting, then the best bet would be the bar seeder. However, if you want to plant a variety of seeds in one sitting, then use a drum seeder.

Depending on what is needed, one may get a type of seeder (as mentioned in the Types of Seeders) which suits the needs of the nursery.


Sowing of seeds were difficult and tiring but thanks to the invention of seeders, success in sowing seeds is easier to achieve. Seeders are definitely a must have for horticulturists, gardens, greenhouses and the like.

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