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Earthway Precision Seeder REVIEW

August 2011

The Earthway Precision seeder is not particular precise, but despite that, it’s an incredible seeder for the small farm, even more so than for most gardens.  It’s much less expensive than any other decent push seeder out there, it’s easy to handle and carry, it comes with enough plates that you can seed pretty much anything, it’s easy to empty the hopper (with a little practice and technique), it can be modified in useful ways.  If you only have one seeder and you’re seeding a wide range of seeds this is a great option for seedings from 10 row feet to 10,000 row feet. 

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Ok, so I wouldn’t buy it if you’re just seeding 10’, but if you’re seeding 10’ on a regular basis I might go for it.  If you’re seeding 10,000’ of one crop on a regular basis I wouldn’t buy it either, but it will do the job, and do it decently well if you’re only doing that much once a year.  Where this thing is great is in the 50’-500’ range, especially if you’re making several seed and seed plate changes during a seeding session.  It’s especially suited to lighter soil.  The thing is light weight, which makes it great for carrying around and easier to get the seed out of, but it doesn’t make it great for plowing through heavy clods or rocks in the soil

While I’m talking about things it’s not good at, and other problems, here a little list:

  • It says precision, and the different plates do give you a bit of a range of seeding rates and kind of a bit of variation in seed spacing, but not so much.  The good news is that you can play with the different plates, even modify plates or order custom plates and get a bit more variation.  The most common modification I see is putting a bit of scotch tape behind every other or even every two of three holes on the beet plate to give 1/2 to 1/3 the seeding rate and reduce or eliminate the need for thinning. 
  • With small seeds, especially small round ones like turnips and arugula, there’s a tendency for the seed to get stuck behind the plate and cause a terrible grinding noise, not to mention it doesn’t really seed right while the seed is back there.  There’s a modification that helps with this.  You can take a 4” abs pipe cap (I think that’s the size), drill a hole in the center, replace the screw for the top pulley with a long one that extends into the seed hopper and then tighten that cap against the seed plate with a wing nut to keep it from flexing as much.  This works pretty well, but it does make changing the seed plates a pain.  The trick is getting the tension on the screw just right so that the plate still spins, but so that it doesn’t flex.  The photo below kind of shows the modification.
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  • In wet conditions the wheels collect soil (at least in most soils).  This can be somewhat remedied by taking a wire (landscape flags are perfect) and bending it so that it scrapes the wheel as the wheel comes off the ground.  The wire can be attached to the axle if you loosen the bolt slightly to bend it around the axle and then retighten the bolt. 
  • In trash or wet conditions the opening shoe will clog.  It’s not a disk opener, and it’s not as bad as the old extra wide Planet Jr. Shoes.  It’s very easy to clear, you just have to pay attention.
  • The belt might start to slip as it gets old and worn.  This can be easily fixed by replacing the belt, which is not expensive.  Parts are relatively easy to get from the manufacturer.
  • The chain that’s there to help cover the furrow is relatively useless, but it doesn’t seem to matter much.
  • The depth markings are not very accurate - but who cares, you’ll just figure out what numbers you need for what seeds.  I use 1/4”-1/2” for small seed, 3/4” for medium seed, and 1” for everything else.

There are probably more I could come up with, but that’s more than is really important. 

Lots of folks I know gang these together.  Two together is the most common and the ones below just have two pieces of wood bolted to them (they are carefully cut, but that doesn’t show.  They are 12” apart.  The bag up top is holding the extra seed plates.  This makes them heavier and it makes the seed harder to remove, but it also saves a lot of walking over time.  Be warned, if you gang three together you’ll have to have really flat beds so that all three drive wheels are touching the ground all of the time.  There are ways to get around this by creating a jackshaft that is powered by just one wheel.  Sometimes folks just replace the front wheels in these gangs and replace them with a single roller (usually made from PVC pipe.

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Here’s my friend Chris below with six ganged together and ready to mount on an Allis Chalmers G tractor.  Again, you’ve got to have a very flat bed for this to work the way he has it set up.

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The photo below shows a beet plate. Those little cups rotate, picking up seed from the bottom of the hopper (as long as you have enough in the hopper), and dropping them out the back down a hole part way up the back (make sure not to fill the seed hopper over the max line, which is right around the spot where it reaches its maximum width, and also happens to be about the spot where the hole behind the plate starts.

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So again, here’s a little summary of what I think are the good features:

  • Inexpensive
  • seeds nearly a full range of seed sizes from turnips to limas
  • light weight (read that as easy to cary and empty)
  • easy to change seed plates and adjust opener depth
  • readily available parts
  • customizable (at least in some ways)
  • durable (as long as you don’t run it over it’ll last years)

 

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