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Planting seedlings or growing vegetable seeds? How to choose the best for your garden in the spring

To find out whether to plant seedlings in your vegetable garden, or use seeds, before that you should know some interesting facts about it. If you plant a vegetable patch in the spring , you can either grow small plants , or buy seeds that are seedproof . However, there are advantages and disadvantages to using your own seeds or previously grown seedlings for this purpose. While seeds are inexpensive compared to the cost of vegetable seedlings, there are other factors you should consider when making your decision.

How you should decide whether to plant seedlings or grow seeds

transplant from seedlings in spring gardening possible

Growing vegetables from seed may not be practical for long-season crops in regions with short growing seasons. For this reason, most gardeners buy seedlings or established potted plants from the nursery for long-season crops such as tomatoes , peppers and eggplants. In the other case, they start growing their seeds indoors weeks before planting time. If you buy vegetable seeds and then start them yourself, you have a wide range of varieties to choose from. For example, there are thousands of tomato varieties that gardeners can choose from seed. However, if you want to plant seedlings, you will be able to choose from only a few dozen varieties at best. The choice between direct seeding and transplanting seedlings depends on a few basic questions:

grow seeds in the soil and sow them later in the garden

  • Are the vegetables easy to germinate from seed ?
  • Is the growing season long enough for the vegetable to mature if planted from seed ?
  • Does the vegetable need special care to grow well from seed ?
  • Is transplanting vegetables a good idea?

sufficient light and watering in the garden during the spring season

The answers to these questions will determine how you plant your vegetable garden. To some extent, your answers will depend on your regional climate. In southern gardens, where the growing season lasts from February to November, there is plenty of time to grow tomatoes and peppers from seed. However, in a northern climate, where the growing season lasts only five months, a gardener may run out of time.

Choosing between seedlings and small plants for transplanting

home planting for seedlings


Even in southern climates, some plants, such as tomatoes and peppers, benefit from seeds you first grow in your home or buy as transplants. These plants often face challenges when started with seeds sown directly into the garden. For example, if you plant tomatoes, peppers and eggplants as seedlings, they are highly susceptible to fungal diseases that may be present in the garden soil. They can succumb to damping off, but you can control this better in a warm indoor environment. They also need warm soil and good light, which is easier to achieve with a heat mat and grow lights inside. So even in long-season gardens, it may be better to start with seeds inside or buy the trickier plants as seedlings.

buy organic seeds and plant vegetable bed in spring

The seed packet itself provides a wealth of information to help you make your selection. Time to maturity is an important factor here. This will tell you how long after the seeds germinate the plant will reach maturity. If on the package it is stated that the maturity is reached after 75 days, you will receive the seedling only after this time. The other factor is the time of sowing . From the package you will know when the seeds should be planted in relation to the last frost date in your area. This might even indicate that the seeds need to be started indoors up to eight weeks before the last frost. We are mostly talking about vegetables that you should plant as seedlings unless you are up to the challenge of being grown indoors.

If you want to plant seedlings, or grow seedlings.

indoor plant in pot sprayed with water


When your garden beds are prepped and ready for planting, the easiest thing to do would be to buy the seedlings. You’ll be sacrificing variety for convenience, but busy gardeners will appreciate the high-quality, finished seedlings. In addition, it can be difficult to find a good place for your starter set-up. Initially, flower pots or planters don’t take up too much space. However, as the plants grow out, they may do so out of their original space. In such cases, you will need to repot them into larger containers. Space is not the only consideration, however. If you can’t provide adequate light, planting your own seeds will be a frustrating waste of time and money.

seedlings plants in flower box for spring gardening

Growing your own seedlings also takes time. Most vegetables and annual flowers need 6 to 8 weeks of growth before you can get them into the garden. If you don’t have time to take care of growing seedlings or perhaps have a spring break planned , then you are better off buying seedlings to transplant. Whatever the reason, be sure to read your seed packets or seed catalogs carefully for advice on planting your chosen vegetables and flowers. Plants that prefer direct seeding include root crops, annual poppies, nasturtiums, corn, beans, peas, and fast-growing vegetables like spinach and arugula.

Vegetables for direct seeding in the garden

plant seedlings in the garden soil and create garden bed in spring

Root crops and vegetables with long taproots, such as carrots, generally do not transplant well. You are better off direct seeding these. Some fast-growing plants, such as peas and summer squash, do not benefit from growing indoors. This is because plants you sow directly into the garden will quickly catch up with transplants. Here are some common vegetables that you can usually direct seed: Beans, beets, carrots, corn, cucumbers, garlic, lettuce, parsnips, peas, squash, radishes, rutabaga, salsify, zucchini.

Suitable vegetables for transplanting as seedlings.

buy tomato seedlings and grow at home

Although it is possible to grow almost any vegetable from seed, slow-growing vegetables can often be planted as seedlings that you have previously grown at home. The following are usually more convenient to transplant into the garden than established seedlings: Artichoke, basil, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, chives, collard greens, eggplant, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, mustard greens, parsley, peppers, and tomatoes.

Grow vegetables from roots or tubers

grow seedlings with roots and sow in the garden soil

There are also a handful of vegetables that you usually don’t plant from seed or as seedlings at all, but can grow from root divisions or bulbs. For example, you can plant asparagus from annual roots, or even grow it from seed. Furthermore, garlic and shallots can be planted from cloves. As for horseradish, you can plant it from root cuttings. Onions you can also plant as cuttings, although these plants can also be grown as seeds. Accordingly, potatoes you can grow from small plants or divisions, while rhubarb can be planted from root crowns. You can also plant sweet potatoes as cuttings.

what vegetables to plant as seedlings and get a better harvest

Regardless of whether you buy direct seeding, sowing or seedlings, you should decide on a strategy well in advance of planting time. Get your plants in the ground as early as possible. This will give them enough time to acclimate to the elements and give them the longest possible growing season.