- Seven Steps of Seed Sowing
- Selecting Seeds
- Direct Seeding Outdoors
- How to Grow Vegetables Directly From Seeds in Your Garden
- Starting Seeds vs. Buying Plants – Is It Better To Plant Seeds Or Use Transplants
- Why Start Seeds
- Why Use Transplants
- Do Seed Planting Downsides Win Out Over Transplants?
- Seeds vs. Transplants
- Pros and Cons of Planting Seeds
- Pros and Cons of Planting Seedlings
- Should You Start with Seeds or Seedlings?
- Planting a Vegetable Garden
#1 Seedling Mix
Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there. – Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
Growing vegetables from seed may take a little effort, but there are several advantages for the home gardener. They include:
- More varieties are available as seeds than from full-grown plants.
- It’s cheaper.
- When you grow your own plants, you are getting a known quality.
If you decide to start growing from seed, the next question that needs to be answered, is whether to start them indoors or outdoors. The answer depends on plant quantities, how much space you have to devote to indoor gardening and the length of your growing season. Another thing to think about: plants begun indoors have higher survival rates than those started outdoors. Learn more about starting seeds indoors from the University of Nebraska Extension.
Keep in mind that this is not an all or nothing deal. You can make case-by-case decisions and start some vegetables from seed and others from plants. It’s your garden… go nuts!
Planet Natural offers heirloom garden seeds that are non-treated, non-GMO and NOT purchased from Monsanto-owned Seminis. Need advice? Visit our vegetable guides for tips and information on growing specific types.
Seven Steps of Seed Sowing
Eileen Powell, author of From Seed to Bloom, divides the sowing of seeds into seven steps:
- Prepare the containers. Clean with well-diluted bleach (nine parts water to one part bleach). Punch drainage holes in the bottom of your container and then line with a layer of newspaper.
- Prepare your growing medium. If you are using soilless growing media, Powell recommends dampening it. Place it in a plastic bag and add four parts water to one part soil. Mix well by squeezing the bag. End result should be damp, but not wet.
- Fill containers. In addition to your growing medium, you may want to add a layer of sand to promote drainage. Fill pots or flats to within 1/4 inch of the top with your potting mix and level the surface.
- Sow your seeds. The easiest way to avoid mixing things up is to plant only one variety of seeds per container. Powell says, “as a general rule of thumb, seeds should be covered to three times their diameter.” Read the directions on the seed packet for specific planting instructions.
- Label containers. Label each container with what seed you’re planting, date planted, expected date (range) of germination. Also, mark a calendar with your plants germination dates which will make planning easier, Powell says.
- Water. If you’ve pre-moistened your growing medium, you can skip this step. Otherwise, water to moisten, but do not saturate the soil.
- Cover containers. Cover seed trays with plastic wrap or place them inside a plastic bag. The idea behind covering the container is to keep moisture levels constant. Seeds are very sensitive to the amount of water they receive. Too much water or too little water will greatly effect your success rate. Remove the cover once the seeds have germinated to prevent plant diseases such as damping off.
As soon as your seedlings develop true leaves (usually the second set of leaves), it’s time to give them more room.
Thin them by trimming off the plant’s leaves at soil level. You’ll want to end up with one plant for every 1 to 2 inches.
THE INSIDE SCOOP
Tips for starting seeds indoors
Sun or Artificial Light? You can start seeds on a window sill for natural sun, but you’ll get better results using grow lights. (You get to control the on/off switch rather than Mother Nature.)
There’s No Place Like Home. Shelving works great. Even a bedroom closet or a spare spot in your laundry room can work. Wherever your seedlings call home, make sure the site is inaccessible to cats and young children.
The Container Conundrum. Store-bought seed trays work, but also consider egg cartons, milk cartons or jugs, shallow wooden boxes with slats or even large plastic buckets.
Tip: Plastic containers work better than clay pots when starting seeds, as they retain moisture more consistently.
Growing Mediums. Use commercial potting soil or concoct your own. Powell offers the following “recipes” for different growing mediums: One-half vermiculite or perlite and one-half sphagnum peat. Powell notes: “Frequent feeding will be required by seedlings that are grown in this medium.” Or, try equal quantities of good garden soil, clean builders’ sand and peat moss. Powell recommends sterilizing the soil by baking it in a shallow pan at 275°F for at least 30 minutes. She warns that the smell of cooking soil is “bad.” If you purchase soil, you won’t need to go through this last step.
Order seeds well in advance of when you need to plant them, but only after you have figured out the size of your garden and how much seed you need.
When’s the last time you had a fresh, great tasting tomato from the supermarket?
So much sweeter, juicier and extra flavorful than a commercially-raised tomato, homegrown heirloom tomato seeds restore one of summer’s greatest pleasures.
All seeds are not created equal. Some live longer than others. In general, corn, leek, onion, parsnip and rhubarb are considered “short-lived” and their seeds are only good for a year or two. Moderately long-lived seeds includes those for asparagus, beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and carrot. Vegetable seeds with a reputation for being long-lived — that is those that can live longer than five years — includes seeds for beets, cucumbers, eggplant and muskmelon.
More and more heirloom seeds are being sold commercially, but there’s also a whole network of nonprofit seed exchanges where growers seek out and exchange seeds. You can find commercial purveyors and seed exchanges by doing a little research on the Internet.
Keep your fledgling plants indoors at least until the danger of frost has passed. You’ll also need to “harden” the plants that you’ve grown before transplanting. “Hardening plants” means putting plants outdoors for longer and longer periods of time for them get used to the harsher environment. They have to acclimate, just like mountain climbers will climb high and sleep low to acclimate to higher altitudes and less oxygen. After about a week of extended time outside, your plants should be ready for transplanting.
If you can, transplant seedlings on a moderate day. Ideally, it should be mild and slightly overcast. When Mother Nature won’t comply with your request and the days are overly hot, transplant in the cool of the evening and avoid the heat of the day.
Water plants an hour or two before transplanting. Loosen the soil around the plants by tapping the flat or container on the ground (gently!). Use a trowel to cut a little square about the plant. Remove it. Then place in the previously dug hole. Make the plant level with the ground. If you’ve used biodegradable containers you can just put the container into the soil as is. Slash the sides of the containers so roots can spread.
FLOATING ROW COVER
Direct Seeding Outdoors
Eileen Powell, author of From Seed to Bloom, recommends starting seeds in a designated starter bed and then transplanting. She believes it’s actually less work to do it that way rather than starting the plants in what will be their permanent location.
The starter beds should be near your vegetable garden, if that’s practical and some place where your seedlings will receive plenty of light, but also will be protected from drying winds. Powell recommends placing seedling beds against a fence or wall, for example.
If a plant’s root system won’t hold up to transplanting, you can start seeds in situ, which means planting seeds in a spot where the plants and their vegetables will grow to maturity.
Mix sand with fine seeds to make them easier to sow and handle. Press the seeds lightly into the soil using the back of a spade or towel. If seeds require darkness then cover with a porous material like sand which will keep out the light, but will permit water to penetrate.
The easiest way to plant large seeds is to dig a shallow furrow with a stick and then plant seeds at set intervals, then cover with a porous material such as vermiculite or sand.
As you’re planting, mark off where you’ve planted what so you will know where everything is.
How to Grow Vegetables Directly From Seeds in Your Garden
- Carrots. Plant carrot seeds when soil warms to 40 F or higher. When you see their shoulders, it’s harvest time. Carrot roots don’t like to be disturbed, so be extra careful when you weed.
- Radishes. Radishes grow fast and taste best when young and tender. Plant seeds once soil reaches 40 F, and get ready for lots of radishes. Like carrots, these root crops don’t like to be disturbed.
- Beets. Seed beets once soil warms to 40 to 50 F, about four weeks before your last frost. Beet leaves are flavorful and add reddish color to salads. You can harvest up to one-third of the greens without hurting your crop.2
- Sweet corn. Sweet corn germinates in soil at 50 F, but it does much better if soil warms a bit more. As a guide, watch for blooming forsythia shrubs or germinating crabgrass in your lawn. Both happen when soil reaches 55 F.
- Beans. Plant beans around your last expected frost date, when soil temperatures warm to 60 F or more. Harvest green beans with the pods still thin and tender. Let dried bean types grow until mature.
- Cucumbers. Sow cucumber seeds after your last frost date, with soil at 60 F or warmer. Harvest baby cukes for bite-size snacks or pickles. Let others grow larger, but enjoy them while they’re still young and tender.
- Squash. Summer and winter squash, including zucchini, won’t stand any cold. Plant only when soil and air both warm up, at least two weeks after your last frost date. Soil temperatures must be at least 60 F, but 70 to 95 F is even better.
As soon as your seeds are in the ground, mark your rows to help you remember what seeds are planted where. Water seeds gently; you don’t want to wash them away before they take root. Keep your seed packets tucked nearby in a garden shed drawer or a garden journal. You’ll want to refer to them for reminders and growing tips as seeds sprout and grow.
By growing garden vegetables directly from seed, you and your family can enjoy all the benefits of homegrown edibles plus the added fun and ease of starting seeds from scratch outdoors. The GardenTech® family of brands wants you to discover all the joys and rewards of gardening, and the GardenTech blog is here to help.
GardenTech is a registered trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc.
1. Harrington, J.F., “Soil Temperature Conditions for Vegetable Seed Germination,” University of California-Davis.
2. Steil, Aaron, “Vegetable Harvest Guide,” Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, July 2004.
Starting Seeds vs. Buying Plants – Is It Better To Plant Seeds Or Use Transplants
The benefits of starting plants from seed are numerous, including the sense of accomplishment and joy you get from growing an entire plant from just a little seed. Starting from seed may take a little more time and effort, but is definitely worth the rewards. Winter doldrums can bring on fantasies of lush, verdant gardens and the itch to get going on the veggie patch becomes almost uncontrollable. This is where the benefits of starting seeds vs. buying plants must be considered.
Then again, there are always two sides to this debate. For example, starting with seeds is more economical but not all zones have a long growing season and many will get leggy and fail to produce if they aren’t mature enough by plant out time. Transplants are more developed, ready to go outdoors when soil warms up and can add time to a short growing season. Continue reading to learn the ups and downs to both.
Why Start Seeds
Mary Ellen’s viewpoint: Why start seeds instead of taking the easy road and using transplants? Planting seeds or transplants is an important decision, so we’ll make it easy for you. Let us list all the reasons you might want to consider buying seed packets instead of transplants:
Seeds cost less. If you have ever been to the nursery in the spring to get your baby vegetable plants, you know how quickly the costs can add up. Packets of seeds cost much less, but seeds can even be free if you save them from one year to the next or exchange with fellow gardeners.
Get more variety. Check out a seed catalogue and you’ll see just how many options you have for plant and vegetable varieties. Transplants are much more limited. With seeds, you can even get heirloom varieties to try.
Some vegetables don’t transplant well. With some plants, like carrots or beans, seeding right in the garden is not only the easiest option, it’s also the best way to grow them successfully. Not all plants do well when transplanted, so starting from seed makes more sense.
Seeds can be started indoors. Timing is important in gardening, and with seeds you get to choose when you start. With transplants you have to guess the last frost. With seedlings started indoors, you have more control over climate and environment, ensuring your plants grow strong and healthy.
Watch the fruits of your labor. There is something so rewarding about watching your little seeds turn into big plants growing vegetables and fruits. You just can’t get that same feeling from using transplants.
Why Use Transplants
Bonnie’s viewpoint: Seed is relatively inexpensive and easy to grow, so why use transplants?
Quick growth. One of the benefits of nursery grown plants is that they are garden ready more quickly, take no effort to start and mature more quickly. In the case of plants like melons, tomatoes, peppers and other long season varieties, using transplants can help ensure a bumper crop because they will fruit more quickly than seed.
Get what you need. Some other benefits of nursery grown plants are that you can get just a few of a variety that you wish and there are often very interesting hybrids available that may not be found in seed form such as heirlooms.
Less maintenance. As noted, some varieties of plants do not transplant well. Even if they do, quite a bit of babying is necessary to get them off to a good start. They must be hardened off so they can adapt to outdoor conditions such as temperature changes, soil difference, wind, and bright light.
Fewer environmental/cultural issues. Most nursery grown plants are started in a controlled environment, rather than in the home, leading to less pest and disease issues. Seedlings started at home are more prone to damping off and other fungal issues since they are in a confined medium that may retain too much moisture and where air circulation is not optimum in many cases. A huge disadvantage of seeds vs. transplants is lack of sunlight during early growth. Veggies need 8 hours of sunlight daily to fuel themselves. Indoor growing situations often lack enough light and result in leggy or scraggly plants. Using plant lights can help but creates a cumbersome, expensive growing area.
Do Seed Planting Downsides Win Out Over Transplants?
Gardening is one big experiment, even if you are an expert. There are so many conditions that can’t be controlled outdoors or in the home. There are few seed planting downsides, such as taking more time or having some seeds fail, but the benefits far outweigh these and, best of all, you’ll get the reward of watching your plants grow from little seeds.
Using transplants that are professionally grown can increase your chances of success. But you don’t have to buy your transplants if you don’t wish. Starting seeds vs. buying plants can be more cost effective. You can save your own seed or start your own indoor transplants with purchased seed. Again, varieties that need a long season to fruit are ideal as self-started transplants.
One way to decide if seeding or transplanting is right for you and your zone is to do both and chart their rates of growth. Different plants will react differently to each method and this should be noted, so the next year you can do things in the most successful manner.
Seeds vs. Transplants
Starting with baby plants can give you more control and predictable results in the garden. Transplants give you a huge jumpstart on the season because they will mature sooner and give you an earlier harvest. You can also increase your harvest with succession planting—planting the same thing several times per season to ensure continuous harvest. For example, you can start your first lettuce succession via transplants and then directly sow lettuce seeds every 2–3 weeks into your garden.
Transplants can be more resistant to insect and other pest pressure because they are more mature and stronger when you first put them into your garden. Many insect pests just love teeny tiny seedlings. Skipping that stage all together and using transplants can save some veggie loss. However, consider that transplants can introduce weeds and diseases into your garden. Most producers of transplants are very careful about this, especially with respect to diseases, but it is not uncommon to get a little grass or other weed seed into your transplant pack now and then. You can pull weed seedlings out before planting, if you find an unwanted straggler in your pack of veggie starts.
Be sure to harden off your transplants, which means exposing them to slightly cooler temps and some dryer conditions before putting them out into your garden. Most transplants have been raised in extremely controlled environments (greenhouses), under very warm, favorable temperatures.They’ve also been spoiled with plenty of water. If you set them right out into your garden, they may suffer from transplant shock, which is wilting (or sometimes death) due to the sudden surprise of cooler night temperatures, lots of temperature fluctuation, or drier conditions.
Buying transplants can be more cost effective, and provides you with a great way to support local farmers and garden centers. Interested in starting your own transplants? Read our Ask Ruth: Starting Your Own Transplants from Seed article and our Homemade Soil Block Recipe article. Soil blocks are pot-less soil cubes for starting seeds in which allow plant roots to air-prune, avoiding plant stress.
Veggies to Transplant or Start in Trays
Planting seeds or purchasing plant nursery seedlings: Which is the better approach for planting a new garden?
Each approach has its pros and cons, and deciding whether to start from seed or buy established seedlings from a local garden center generally comes down to personal preference. Many northern Utah gardeners do both, choosing seeds for some fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers, and going with transplants for others.
So which approach is right for your garden?
Pros and Cons of Planting Seeds
Starting a new garden from seed offers several advantages. The pros of planting seeds include:
Variety – When you start plants from seed, you have more plant choices.
Cost – Seeding is less expensive than buying seedlings from a local plant nursery.
Satisfaction – Few gardening tasks are as rewarding as growing a plant from a tiny seed.
Planting seeds isn’t always the preferred approach for a new garden, however. Seeding has a few cons, including:
Time – Growing a new garden from seed takes several weeks of daily care.
Space – Not all gardeners have room for seeding trays, tools, and equipment.
Loss – Seeding is a delicate process, so it brings a greater chance of losing plants.
Pros and Cons of Planting Seedlings
Many northern Utah gardeners prefer to purchase seedlings grown at a local plant nursery. The pros of this gardening approach include:
Convenience – Planting seedlings is much quicker and easier than seeding.
Control – Starting a new garden with transplants offers more predictable results.
Gratification – Gardeners delight in going from an empty garden bed to rows of tiny plants.
Transplants aren’t always best for a new garden. Plant nursery seedlings come with a few cons:
Selection – With transplants, varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs to choose from are limited.
Expense – Though planting seedlings can be cost-effective, transplants are generally more expensive than seeding your garden.
Shock – It doesn’t happen often with seedlings from a quality local plant nursery, but transplants can wilt or die off if they aren’t hardened properly prior to planting.
Should You Start with Seeds or Seedlings?
If you’re weighing the advantages and drawbacks of seeding versus buying plant nursery seedlings, speak with a local gardening expert.
Some veggies, herbs and flowers don’t do well when transplanted. Others can be a challenge to grow from seed. Experimenting with seeding can be fun, but a little guidance from a gardening expert can help you avoid losing plants.
The friendly staff at Millcreek Gardens can help you decide whether starting from seed or purchasing seedlings is the best option for the types of plants you plan to feature in your new garden. We’re always happy to help put northern Utah gardeners on the path to gardening success.
To chat with a local gardening expert, stop by our beautiful Salt Lake City plant nursery today.
Planting a Vegetable Garden
Planting your own vegetable garden is one of the most rewarding improvements you can make to your home. You will literally reap benefits by eating fresher, more nutrient-rich vegetables. You’ll save money compared to buying supermarket produce that simply cannot compare to home-grown flavor. And you’ll even save space as there’s no need to fill your fridge with veggies when they stay fresh right on the vine.
On these pages, we’ll show you everything you need to know about planting a vegetable garden. Important factors to consider are how you will arrange your garden, how you will propagate new plants to introduce into your garden, and how to care for your plants whether they’re in the ground or inside waiting for the right time to be planted. Every climate and every palate has a garden to match.
Transplanting Vegetable Seeds from Indoors
Earlier harvests and extended seasons give gardeners more choices. By starting your own vegetable transplants indoors, you can reap maximum benefit from the growth conditions your climate has to offer. Transplants allow you to plan for a supply of what you want when you want it. Our guide teaches you the best way to arrange your transplants, and we’ll help you pick the perfect time to transplant seeds to your garden.
Caring for Vegetable Seedlings
Many plants will only thrive if you provide special care in their early development. Just after sprouting is when plants have the most specific requirements for temperature, light, and moisture levels. We’ll show you how to pamper your seedlings so they’re ready to survive cool nights and the unpredictable elements outside in your garden.
Direct Seeding in the Vegetable Garden
Certain vegetable seeds sprout and grow very well directly in your garden soil. Learn which plants like to grow straight from seed, learn optimum seed spacing and soil depth, and learn the proper amounts of water, shade, and soil nutrients to meet your seeds’ needs. Our direct seeding guide will help you prepare your garden’s soil for maximum success with this easiest and least expensive method of planting your garden vegetables.
Starting New Vegetable Plants from Parts
Vegetable Spacing Guide
Every hungry little plant must compete with everything else in your garden for water, light, nutrients, and root space. Knowing how close you can arrange your plants is crucial to maximizing your garden’s productivity while still achieving robust plants and vegetables. We’ll explain how each plant gets along with its neighbors and how you can eliminate competition with a little planning.
Want more information about planting a vegetable garden? Try:
- Vegetable Recipes: Cook delicious meals with the crop from your vegetable garden.
- Vegetable Gardens: More information about vegetable gardening.
- Gardening: Find out about all of the different aspects of gardening.