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planting seeds vs plants

Planting Seeds Vs. Plants

You can start a garden from seeds or from plants.

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To start a vegetable or flower garden, you can germinate seeds indoors, producing seedlings for planting outdoors at the appropriate time, or you can sow seeds directly outdoors. Depending on your location and the type of plants you want to grow, you might decide to give your garden a quick start by purchasing young plants instead.

Planting Seeds Outdoors

Planting seeds directly outdoors can be a good option, especially if you live in a warmer zone. Choose seed from a reputable supplier and check the date on the packet to ensure the seed is fresh. Sow seeds in shallow furrows in well-prepared soil, cover them with soil and gently compact the surface. Keep the seedbed moist and thin seedlings when they emerge. If you live in a colder area, you can still plant seeds directly outdoors, especially if you choose hardy varieties that can withstand a light frost. For tender varieties, plant seeds after the last expected frost date for your region.

Starting Seeds Indoors

In areas with shorter growing seasons, you might germinate seeds indoors, starting plants in advance of the outdoor growing season. Fill small containers with moist, sterile potting mix or a seed-starting formula and place several seeds in each, covering them with a small amount of mix. Keep your containers warm and, when seeds germinate, move them to a sunny window. Water your seedlings regularly and fertilize them occasionally with dilute fertilizer solution. When frost danger has passed, put your seedlings outdoors in a protected, semi-shaded area for a week or two to harden them off before planting them in your garden site.

Buying Young Plants

You can also start your garden with young plants you purchase at a garden center. Choose plants that look healthy, with strong, green leaves and no yellow areas. Avoid plants that look tall and lanky, with thin stems and widely spaced leaves. Instead, look for medium-height seedlings with sturdy stems, since these have had a good light source during their early growing. Check the container to be sure that plants have lots of soil around the roots and are not root bound. Finally, check that seedlings are free of insects or signs of disease such as spots on the leaves.

Establishing New Plants

If your new plants were grown in a greenhouse, harden them off in a protected spot outdoors for several days before planting in your garden. When setting plants in your soil, prepare a hole at least 50 percent larger that the original pot, add a small amount of starter fertilizer, back-fill with soil and water your plants regularly to give them a good start. Space your plants widely, giving them room to grow and fill in as the season progresses.

Pros and Cons

There are advantages and disadvantages to planting either seeds, your own seedlings or purchased plants in your garden. Seeds are inexpensive but take time and care to germinate indoors. Planting seeds directly outdoors is relatively easy, but seed germination can be slow or seeds might die if the weather is wet or cold. Beginning with commercially grown plants will get your garden off to a quick start but requires a higher initial investment.

Planting Seeds Vs. Plants. To start a vegetable or flower garden, you can germinate seeds indoors, producing seedlings for planting outdoors at the appropriate time, or you can sow seeds directly outdoors. Depending on your location and the type of plants you want to grow, you might decide to give your garden a quick …

Seeds vs transplants: Should you start from seed or buy transplants?

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The great spring gardening dilemma; should you start from seed or buy transplants for your vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings from a local nursery? Personally, I do both, growing hundreds of my own seedlings beneath my grow-lights, and also buying from a handful of favourite garden centres. There are benefits and drawbacks to starting your own seeds as well as buying pre-grown seedlings.

3 reasons to start your own seeds indoors:

Learn the pro

  1. Diversity – Buying seeds from mail order catalogues or local nurseries, and then starting the seeds yourself, allows you to choose from a MUCH wider selection of varieties. For example, there are thousands of tomatoes available to gardeners through seed companies. But, if you rely on your local garden centres for your seedlings, you’ll be choosing from just a few dozen varieties, at best. Plus, I like to grow a lot of global and unusual vegetables, which can be difficult to find locally. So, if I want my cucamelons, Yellow Pear tomatoes, Lemon cucumbers, and purple tomatillos, I need to start them myself.
  2. Save money – I have a large garden and buying transplants for all the crops that I want to grow would cost me big bucks. Starting my own seeds has proven to be very cost effective and saves me hundreds of dollars each year. Obviously, there was some initial investment for equipment and supplies; grow-lights and containers, as well as annual items like potting soil and seeds. To save money, I built my own grow light stand, using inexpensive shop light fixtures, fitted with fluorescent bulbs. However, new or small space gardeners, don’t need grow-lights for seed starting and may want to try sowing a small number of seeds in a bright, south-facing windowsill.
  3. Satisfaction – There is no better cure for spring fever than sowing some seeds indoors. By the time February rolls around, I’m ready to start planting seeds for slow growing plants like artichokes, geraniums, pansies, leeks, and onions. The process of growing plants from seed to harvest, or seed to bloom in the case of flowers, is immensely satisfying.

3 reasons to buy transplants:

  1. Quick and easy – When your garden beds or containers are prepped and ready for planting, it’s ridiculously quick and easy to just buy the seedlings that you need. You sacrifice variety for convenience, but busy gardeners will appreciate the high quality, ready-to-plant seedlings found at their local garden centres.
  2. Location – It can be challenging to find a good spot for your seed starting set-up. Initially, those pots or trays don’t take up too much room, but as the plants grow, they may out-grow the original space, or need to be re-potted into larger containers. And space isn’t the only consideration; if you can’t provide ample light (with grow-lights or a sunny window), starting your own seeds will be a frustrating waste of time and money.
  3. Time – Growing your own seedlings takes time. Most vegetables and annual flowers need 6 to 8 weeks of growth before they can be hardened off and moved into the garden. If you don’t have time to care for the growing seedlings or perhaps have a spring vacation planned, than you’re better off buying transplants.

A few words about direct seeding:

It’s important to note that some plants should be direct seeded in the garden and not started indoors or bought as transplants. This can be due to a variety of factors; maybe they’re so quick to grow that they don’t require a head start, or perhaps they don’t take well to being transplanted. Whatever the reason, be sure to read your seed packets or seed catalogues carefully for advice on starting your chosen vegetables and flowers. Plants that prefer to be direct seeded include root crops, annual poppies, nasturtiums, corn, beans, peas, and quick growing greens like spinach and arugula.

The pro

What are your spring gardening plans? Will you start from seed or buy transplants for your food and flower gardens?


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Reader Interactions


mikethegardener says

Good, timely post–thanks! Recently a friend got me started using soil blocks rather than cell trays for seed starting. I’ve had some unexpected successes, for example with beets and peas, which always before I direct-seeded outdoors. Earlier and more uniform production.

What's the best way to grow your own plants; start from seed or buy transplants? If you're trying to figure out what to do, read on!