Dabbling in Dibbles

Insert the pegs and glue them in place

When I saw my first dibble board I thought, “Why haven’t I already made one of these?” It’s that kind of tool – a “duh” tool that should be in every gardeners shed.

A dibble (or dibber)  is a tool that makes a hole – ostensibly to sow a seed, but alternately for any purpose. They’ve been around since Roman Times.

Well, that’s all good and fine, but who wants to plant each and every seed by making a little hole one at a time? I wanted to take it to the next level, so I decided to make a dibble board.

As a square-foot gardener (for the most part) I wanted to create a board, or series of boards, that I could use to lay out a pattern for each individual foot of my raised bed. This meant that I would need one that made 16 holes per square foot, one that made 9 and one that poked 4 holes.

Square-foot gardening treats every foot of the garden as a separate patch in which you can sow any number of different vegetables or flowers. If you are growing carrots in that square foot, then you would sow 16 seeds. If you are growing spinach, you’d only sow 4. It’s a very efficient means of gardening, and if done correctly it looks great as well.

For sowing in past years I had made three cardboard guides with holes that I could drop the seeds through or poke a pencil through to make an appropriate hole. This was a bit lame, as they cardboard looked like heck and poking the holes in the soil was time consuming.

This spring I decided to make my own dibble board, so I began with a trip to Home Depot to pick up some plywood. I actually found a free piece of scrap plywood in their waste material that was exactly the right width for the project. All I had to do was cut three 12 x 12 inch pieces and I was ready to start making dibbles.

Using what I hoped would be simple mathematical principles, I drew out a pattern on each piece of wood and marked the location of the holes. I then searched around for something to use as pegs in each of the holes and decided that my collection of sponge paint brushes (10 for $1 at Michael’s) could spare an inch off the end of each brush. The handles were 3/8″ diameter and worked perfectly, although it took me some time to cut each one with the chop saw.

I drilled matching 3/8″ holes at the marked locations in the board and glued each of the pegs in place. Since I was using 1/4″ plywood, each peg stuck out just under 3/4 of an inch. This will make a hole too deep for some seeds, so that has to be considered when pressing the board into the soil. I don’t personally think that the depth of the hole is as critical as how much soil is placed over the seed once it’s been planted.

I tried out my new set of dibbles already, and I think they did the job marvelously. I was able to plant all of my carrots in no time. Of course, it snowed the next day – but that’s just part and parcel of growing vegetables in zone 3. Sigh.


9 thoughts on “Dabbling in Dibbles

  1. Hello! I’m new to your blog, but I like it. I found you because I’m looking for a dibble board (learned about em on beekman1802.com where they have a great DIY article.). I did a google search n there you are!
    I’ve done some reading and there are some who say you have to make 3 of each board you make, for different seed-depths.
    Fooey! There’s a simple solution:
    Get one 1/4″ ply-wood board and mark it with the same grid, drill the same holes and match it to your existing dibble board. Next get something 1/4″thick that you can use as a spacer – it could be just a strip or two of scrap wood.
    When you need to sow seeds 1/2″ deep, since each peg is 3/4″ long, if you slip on the 1/4″ board, your pegs are now 1/2″. When you need to sow seeds 1/4″ deep, put in your 1/4″ spacer(s), then slide on the 1/4″ spacer board. 3/4″peg – 1/4″spacer -1/4″ board = 1/4″ pegs sticking out. Easy-peasy.

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