As winter morphs into spring, the attention of many gardeners turns from leafing through and subsequently ordering from the seed catalogs many of us receive to visiting the local nurseries to browse over aisles upon aisles of seedlings in order to fill our rows. The choices both methods provide can be a bit daunting to say the least. So, just how does one decide which veggies to buy in plant form and which to grow from seeds? There are many factors to take into consideration when making these crucial decisions. Here, we’ll take a close look at three of the more important factors to consider in order to help you make an informed decision.
What Can You Afford?
It only takes one visit to the local garden center to see that, in most instances, seeds are cheaper than plants. That alone can make them a better choice when it takes a lot of seed to produce the amount of crop desired. Such is often the case with beets, peas, radishes, beans and sweet corn – especially when wanting to can and freeze them.
On the other hand, plants are often the logical choice when starting vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes. This is mainly due to the fact that the seeds of many of these are very small and often quite plentiful when purchased in a packet. Many gardeners don’t have the space or the need for 25-50 of these in plant form when usually 4 to 12 will suffice. Also in many cases, it’s much easier to simply buy plants here than to have to deal with starting seeds and then thinning and/or transplanting.
Do You Have The Patience And The Setup?
One time and you’ll see that it is much easier (and usually less stressful ) to grow established plants than to endure the wait of seeds to germinate. However, it can be done with patience and the right equipment. Be prepared to possibly encounter substantial costs in order to start seeds at home. This is especially true in the northern growing regions where electric heating mats, an indoor grow light or even a small greenhouse may be needed in order to have plants ready at the right time.
How Long Is Your Growing Season?
Another factor to keep in mind when planning your garden is the length of the growing season in your region. In areas where the growing season is only six months long, it may not be a good idea to raise vegetables like tomatoes, pumpkins and eggplant from seeds as many of these varieties take 4 to 5 months to bear fruit. It would also be a good idea to use transplants when dealing with most peppers because they have a tendency to not be very hardy in cold conditions.
Radishes, potatoes, leaf lettuce and turnips are a few examples of vegetables that are usually started from seeds all the time since it only takes 45-100 days for these to mature. Also many sweet corn and green bean varieties have shorter growing seasons (65-110 days), so they too may be a viable option for northern climates. With this in mind, however, keep in mind that if you live in a southern climate you don’t have to start everything from seeds either just because your season is longer. In some instances, a double crop can be produced by utilizing plants vs seeds.
As is always the case, there are exceptions to every rule. Remember also, that there are other factors to consider such as seed size and transplant hardiness. Use good judgement and a little common sense. In the end, I just hope that that the factors that I elaborated on here when combined with your individual knowledge of what you desire to produce, your garden size and your resources will assist you in making the best choice for you when the annual question arises: To “Seed” or to “Plant”?