Should you grow your own seeds or just buy transplants from your local nursery?

Seeds vs transplants: Should you start from seed or buy transplants?

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The great spring gardening dilemma; should you start from seed or buy transplants for your vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings from a local nursery? Personally, I do both, growing hundreds of my own seedlings beneath my grow-lights, and also buying from a handful of favourite garden centres.  There are benefits and drawbacks to starting your own seeds as well as buying pre-grown seedlings.

3 reasons to start your own seeds indoors:

  1. Diversity – Buying seeds from mail order catalogues or local nurseries, and then starting the seeds yourself, allows you to choose from a MUCH wider selection of varieties. For example, there are thousands of tomatoes available to gardeners through seed companies. But, if you rely on your local garden centres for your seedlings, you’ll be choosing from just a few dozen varieties, at best. Plus, I like to grow a lot of global and unusual vegetables, which can be difficult to find locally. So, if I want my cucamelons, Yellow Pear tomatoes, Lemon cucumbers, and purple tomatillos, I need to start them myself.
  2. Save money – I have a large garden and buying transplants for all the crops that I want to grow would cost me big bucks. Starting my own seeds has proven to be very cost effective and saves me hundreds of dollars each year. Obviously, there was some initial investment for equipment and supplies; grow-lights and containers, as well as annual items like potting soil and seeds. To save money, I built my own grow light stand, using inexpensive shop light fixtures, fitted with fluorescent bulbs. However, new or small space gardeners, don’t need grow-lights for seed starting and may want to try sowing a small number of seeds in a bright, south-facing windowsill.
  3. Satisfaction – There is no better cure for spring fever than sowing some seeds indoors. By the time February rolls around, I’m ready to start planting seeds for slow growing plants like artichokes, geraniums, pansies, leeks, and onions. The process of growing plants from seed to harvest, or seed to bloom in the case of flowers, is immensely satisfying.
Learn the pro's and con's of starting from seed or buying transplants.

Starting your own seeds is fun and easy, and allows you to take advantage of the diversity of varieties found in seed catalogues.

Related post: Grow-lights versus sunny windowsills for seed starting

3 reasons to buy transplants:

  1. Quick and easy – When your garden beds or containers are prepped and ready for planting, it’s ridiculously quick and easy to just buy the seedlings that you need. You sacrifice variety for convenience, but busy gardeners will appreciate the high quality, ready-to-plant seedlings found at their local garden centres.
  2. Location – It can be challenging to find a good spot for your seed starting set-up. Initially, those pots or trays don’t take up too much room, but as the plants grow, they may out-grow the original space, or need to be re-potted into larger containers. And space isn’t the only consideration; if you can’t provide ample light (with grow-lights or a sunny window), starting your own seeds will be a frustrating waste of time and money.
  3. Time – Growing your own seedlings takes time. Most vegetables and annual flowers need 6 to 8 weeks of growth before they can be hardened off and moved into the garden. If you don’t have time to care for the growing seedlings or perhaps have a spring vacation planned, than you’re better off buying transplants.

A few words about direct seeding:

It’s important to note that some plants should be direct seeded in the garden and not started indoors or bought as transplants. This can be due to a variety of factors; maybe they’re so quick to grow that they don’t require a head start, or perhaps they don’t take well to being transplanted. Whatever the reason, be sure to read your seed packets or seed catalogues carefully for advice on starting your chosen vegetables and flowers. Plants that prefer to be direct seeded include root crops, annual poppies, nasturtiums, corn, beans, peas, and quick growing greens like spinach and arugula.

The pro's and con's of starting your own plants from seed or buying transplants.

Some crops, like these carrots, shouldn’t be started indoors or bought as transplants. They should be direct seeded in the garden. If transplanted, the roots may end up forked. I guess someone should have told that to the garden centre that was selling these flats!

What are your spring gardening plans? Will you start from seed or buy transplants for your food and flower gardens? 

What's best? Starting your own seeds or buying transplants?

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One Response to Seeds vs transplants: Should you start from seed or buy transplants?

  1. mikethegardener says:

    Good, timely post–thanks! Recently a friend got me started using soil blocks rather than cell trays for seed starting. I’ve had some unexpected successes, for example with beets and peas, which always before I direct-seeded outdoors. Earlier and more uniform production.

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