How to Plan a Garden Part 2: To Sow or Not to Sow?
I am often asked whether it is better to start seeds indoors and transplant them later or to sow seeds outdoors directly into the garden. Some people even wonder if skipping seed starting all together and purchasing transplants from a local farmer or garden center beats the two former options.
The uncertainties of these big questions are enough to keep an aspiring gardener from ever getting started. The good news is that there are no hard and fast rules in gardening. The short answer to these often challenging questions is . . . it depends.
Choosing whether to start your garden from seeds or transplants depends on a number of factors including time, experience, and budget. The type of vegetable or herb being grown also makes a big difference. Some plants prefer being directly sown into the garden, while others prefer to be nursed indoors before being transplanted.
Here are some benefits and drawbacks to all three sowing methods. Knowing these factors will help you determine the best way to start and will put you on track to growing a happy, healthy garden!
Starting From Seed
Check out our seed starting temperatures chart.
- If you are planning a large garden, starting from seed is more affordable than purchasing transplants.
- You control the source of the seeds and the varieties that are grown.
- You can start early indoors, transplant, and then seed in succession throughout the season.
- Root crops such as carrots, turnips, parsnips, and beets prefer to be directly sown.
- Beans, corn, garlic, and peas also prefer to be directly sown and grown in one place.
- You will need to wait for the soil temperature to rise and night air temperatures to climb above 50° before sowing or transplanting.
- After you finish waiting for the seedlings to mature for transplanting, you will need to monitor your young sprouts two to three times a day.
If you sow directly outdoors, drought, heavy winds, flooding, and insects can destroy young seedlings.
- The cost of protective covering, seed trays, germination heating pads, and indoor grow lights can add up.
Starting With Transplants
- You can get a head start on the growing season!
- Planning a small garden? It may be more affordable to purchase transplants.
- Transplants are stronger and more resistant to weather conditions and pests.
- Celery, eggplants, leeks, onions, peppers, and tomatoes do well as transplants.
- You can start broccoli, chard, and kale indoors and place them outside soon after your plant hardiness zone’s frost-free date.
- Transplants can go through shock when moved from their original container.
- If you start seeds indoors, you will need to harden off your seedlings before transplanting them into a permanent location. This entails moving the baby plants outdoors for a few hours each day before moving them back indoors while they adjust to the sun and wind. It will take about a week to do this.
- Transplants purchased from other farms or greenhouses may introduce pests, diseases, or weeds into your garden.
- Plant varieties at nurseries and big box stores are limited. If you prefer non-GMO, organic, or heirloom varieties, it may be best to start your own transplants from certified seed sources.
Whether you are sowing seeds directly into a garden or starting them in trays, you will need to pay attention to the temperature of the soil. The number of days needed for seed germination is related to the warmth of the soil. If you want to move sprouting time along more quickly and predictably, try using seedling flat heating mats.
If starting from seed isn’t for you, search your local farmers’ market during the spring and fall to purchase transplants. You will usually find heirloom varieties accustomed to growing in your local climate there. You can also learn a few secrets of gardening success when buying from local growers.
Whether you decide to purchase transplants, start your own seeds indoors, or start seeds directly in the garden, these guidelines will help you successfully start your own garden.