Vegetable Gardening

Planting Seeds vs. Transplants – Which is better?

Seed starting time is just around the corner. Gardeners prepare by gathering seed starting supplies:

  • Containers – some purchased; some recycled (egg cartons, take out containers, etc.)
  • Water-holding trays to put under containers
  • Seed starting potting mix
  • Shelves set up with lights on adjustable chains
  • Seeds, of course!

Before we plant seeds of our favorite vegetables, let’s consider which ones we should plant now to transplant into our gardens later and which seeds we should keep to plant directly into the garden in spring.

Gardeners don’t always agree on which vegetables perform better as transplants, but a couple important factors may help us decide for ourselves.

  • If the days to harvest or maturity dates are more than three months, we will have to wait to harvest until the end of August if seeds are planted outside after danger of frost has passed. Transplants give us a jump start.
  • Some plants just don’t transplant well including vegetables with tap roots and other root crops.

There are pros and cons to both planting from transplants and direct seeding. The benefits of planting from seed include cost, selection and availability. The cost of seeds is considerably less than the cost of transplants. There is a much larger selection of varieties on seed racks than on garden center benches. And some plants are only available to purchase as seeds.

Gardeners often plant extra seeds as insurance, to make sure we end up with the number of plants we want to grow, and it is difficult to sprinkle small seeds from packets at just the right distance from each other. As a result, we end up with plants competing for water, nutrients and light. Most of us will have to thin seedlings to eliminate plants growing too closely together.

Transplants have advantages, too. Besides the head start long-maturing plants get by a seedy start, transplants get succession plantings off to a quicker start too. Our first harvest of cool-season vegetables can be weeks sooner when the first crop is sown indoors and transplanted outside as soon as weather permits.

Transplants are sturdier because they are more mature and have a larger root system when introduced to harsher conditions outside. For those of us who prefer instant gratification, transplants provide it. And transplants may be the best choice for small vegetable gardens or for containers. Why should we buy an entire packet of seeds when we only need a couple tomatoes and a few other transplants?

Before planting them outside, transplants should be gradually exposed to outdoor conditions. Transplants denied this period of hardening off may suffer from transplant shock.

Vegetables to Plant from Transplants

Vegetables to Seed Directly in the Garden

 Vegetables that Grow Just Fine Either Way


I imagine most gardeners grow some of their vegetables from seed planted in late winter or early spring, direct seed appropriate varieties, and purchase some transplants from local garden centers. We gardeners are nothing if not flexible, right?

For me, the best part of starting seeds indoors is the chance to garden before I can get my hands in the soil outside. And there is something especially satisfying about watching a plant grow from its first set of leaves to a full-size, vegetable-producing plant.

Are you growing vegetables from seed? What varieties are you growing? Let’s share our experiences and help each other. Garden with me!







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