Most gardeners are familiar with seed planting. Some choose to use transplants only, but most realize the benefits and bonuses to starting their vegetable garden’s inhabitants from seed.
Why Start Vegetables From Seeds
There are three main reasons most gardeners choose seeds over transplants: cost effectiveness, control of the process, and availability.
1. Seeds are much, much cheaper than seedlings. In fact, they are several hundred times more cost-effective in most cases. A pouch of seeds may contain 50-300 seeds inside and cost about the same as one transplant-ready seedling. In most cases, they cost even less. For example, tomatoes cost around $3.00 per plant for transplants, yet a pouch of 200 seeds costs less than a dollar.
2. When gardeners grow from seed, they have more control over the growing process. The first few days of a seedling’s life are the most crucial in determining it’s overall, long-term productivity and health. By ensuring a perfect situation from Day 1, gardeners know that their plants are as good as they can be. Also, commercial growers who sell transplants often do not thin the seedlings by strength, but instead attempt to get every living plant into sellable form. This means some of the weaker plants still make it to market – and the garden.
3. Seeds are much more readily available than are transplants. Small plants do not travel well, so they are usually available only at certain times of the year (if at all) and some more rare or heirloom varieties may not be available in your area. Seeds, however, can store for very long periods of time, have few requirements for safe travel, and thus can be sent all over the world quite readily. And, they can be purchased at any time of the year and from multiple sources.
Which Vegetables Grow Well From Seeds
Nearly all vegetables in the garden grow well from seed. Most common vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots, beans, etc. are easy to start from seed. Some require more care than others, but all are possible to grow from seed.
The easiest are the larger-seed varieties, such as pumpkins, peas, and cucumbers. Larger seeds are easier to handle, usually have a higher sprout rate (fewer duds in the pack), and sprout through the seed bed relatively quickly.
Smaller seeds, such as tomatoes, green or snap beans, lettuce, etc. are harder to handle and do not always sprout as well, but are still favorites for gardeners who start from seed. Of all the plants commonly grown in home gardens, tomatoes are probably the most-often purchased as transplants rather than started from seed.
Some varieties of plants, like asparagus, are very difficult to successfully begin from seed and the process of getting to a harvest-ready plant can be greatly sped up by purchasing root balls or starters. Other plants, such as potatoes, do not have seeds in the traditional sense – the fruit we eat is, in fact, the seed itself.
Starting Vegetable Seeds Early
Most gardeners who grow from seed begin their seedlings early, a few weeks before the planting season really begins. This gives them a jump-start on their garden and can allow for a longer growing season. Two methods are used in this way.
The first is to begin the seeds early and enjoy an early harvest of some plants while planting others traditionally. This is the more common, as it requires less planning and allows the gardener control over the harvest.
The second is to stack the harvest so that seeds are started early, transplanted, then a few weeks before harvest of those vegetables come, new seeds are started so they’ll be ready for transplant when the harvest of the first crop is complete. This is a way of stacking the harvest so that there can be more than one growing season.
Transplanting Vegetable Plants
Whether starting from seed or purchasing transplants from a nursery, the process is about the same. To put the plants into your garden, you’ll first need to harden them to the new environment. This is accomplished by leaving the plants outdoors for a few hours at a time over a few day’s time, extending the time out with each day until they are finally out for a full 24 hours at once.
The transplants are then put into the prepared soil. Some plants, such as tomatoes and other less hardy types, may then require a partial covering or other care for a few more days. Most, if watered regularly, will catch hold and do just fine at this point.