planting seeds, seedlings or potted

Seeds, seedlings or potted?

This is a very common question.
Do I plant seeds or seedlings, or even purchase larger plants in pots? The answer is predictably – it depends..
Here is the skinny on each, and why you might choose them.

Seeds are…

  • Cheap -by the packet, home grown, swapped or gifted, seeds are by far the cheapest way to grow veg.
  • Varied -companies that produce seedlings cannot possibly grow on every variety so they usually pick a few favs and keep the rest seed. You can try a few different varieties from seed and see which perform best for you.
  • Abundant -you’ll either end up with not all coming up, and no real loss, or they all come up and you’ve got a bonanza to use/share, to eat and to go to seed again.
  • Adaptable -seedlings from a different part of the country to you may not thrive at first, but if you use seed, you can select the strongest and dig in the rest without drama. You can also grow them on to produce their own seed, thereby acclimatising them to your local conditions. It takes about three years of sowing and saving seed to narrow the field down to those that will thrive at your place.

Some plants do not like to be disturbed once in the ground, so they may struggle if planted out by seedling or larger plants. For these veggies, best to use seed if you can:
CARROTS and other root veg, BEANS and other legumes, and PUMPKIN love direct sowing into the bed with seed.
There are others, but these are the main contenders.

Seedlings are…

  • Convenient -you can certainly grow your own seedlings, but buying them at a nursery is super easy and handy.
  • Safe -the most tender stage of the plants life has been spent in protected conditions so the success rate is high. This is also great for areas of early frost – you can begin them from seed in trays inside in the warm and by the time they are seedlings, you can plant out, having skipped the danger period.
  • Selected -only the most successful and easy varieties make it to sell as seedlings, so ones you buy in punnets are likely to be the least troublesome to grow. 

Some veg absolutely thrive from seedlings, and aren’t bothered by the transplanting. Examples are: BEETROOT (even though it’s a root veg), CORN and TOMATO, amongst others. We can chat about how to grow your own seedlings another time 🙂

Potted are…

  • Fast – weeks of growth and care have been done for you, which can be helpful if you have missed the start of the season, and also if you like to stagger your planting so not all the toms come on at once – it can be very smart to plant seeds, seedlings and potted in the same bed to really emend the harvest period. If you have children it can be satisfying to see some fruitful results quickly too.
  • Forgiving -large tougher plants can be a great way to kickstart your vegetable growing experience, skipping the ‘puppy’ stage.
  • Hardy -a head start may sound like cheating -haha- but in fact if you have heavy frost well into the growing season and no greenhouse, or a planting has been ruined by harsh conditions, it may be a godsend to just hold off and start with a more mature plant that has hardened off already. It also has a better chance of withstanding the attention of pests.

Some wonderfully productive plants do super well from pots, and even kept in larger pots for their full season. TOMATO, CAPSICUM, ZUCCHINI, CUCUMBER, HERBS of course, STRAWBERRIES and BLUEBERRIES.

So, when choosing your veggies each season, consider the flexibility these choices give you – to stagger harvest, time results, respond to the seasons and overall make the most of your resources and opportunities.

Look wide, grow well, folks 🌿
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