Gardening for Beginners: Seeds & Seedlings

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Congratulations! You've built your beds, decided what to plant, and you're finally ready to actually get things planted!

But... How? Do you need seeds? Is it better to buy plants that have already been started? Is it time to spend hundreds of dollars building a huge greenhouse???

 Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

You can either direct sow (plant seeds directly in garden soil) or transplant (buy seedlings that are ready to go in the ground/start seeds indoors and move them outdoors when the weather is warm enough). But how do you decide which?

First, take a look at your list of plants that you'd like in your garden. Each of these plants takes a different amount of time to mature, and you want to make sure your growing season can reasonably support the length of time it takes for a particular plant to reach maturity. So if you live somewhere with a short growing season, or if you just want to get a head start on things, you're going to want seedlings!

In our zone (6b), we never direct sow things like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers - they benefit from being started indoors 1-2 months in advance, and that requires planning and space. If you don't have space for a seed tray or two, don't worry about starting your own seeds indoors! For a small garden, it's relatively cost-effective to purchase inexpensive seedlings from your local nursery instead of buying seed trays, soil, and seeds.

We often start things like cucumbers, melons, and zucchini in seed trays shortly before it's time to transplant, and then we also direct-sow them so that we can have a continuous crop throughout the season. If you have space, you can try starting these indoors yourself. If you don't have indoor space, buy seeds and sow these yourself when the last frost date in your zone has passed. It is not cost-effective to buy these as seedlings because they take a relatively short time to germinate and are ready to transplant within a week or two since they get large quickly.

We always direct sow things like carrots and radishes (which don't transplant well), onion sets (much easier than seeds), pole & bush beans, and corn.

If you are going to be planting a lot of one type of plant (tomatoes, peppers, etc), it will probably be cost-effective to start them yourself, in which case you're going to want the proper supplies. For beginners, I recommend finding a warm, sunny window in your house and using one of these seed trays, which can be reused and are self-watering. (If you use Rakuten, you can always find coupons and get cash back from Burpee, which is a very reliable gardening website - that's my referral link!)

But generally, if you're going to have a relatively small garden? Don't worry about starting your own seeds indoors! Frequent your local nursery, ask them for recommendations, and purchase seeds that you can direct-sow and seedlings that are ready to be transplanted.

Don't forget about flowers, too! We'll talk pest management next time, but marigolds and nasturtiums are very helpful for repelling certain garden pests, so it's a safe bet that you'll want to include some. Zinnias grow easily too, and attract pollinators.

What are you planting this year? Any questions you'd like to see addressed?

Up next: Pest management!

1 comment:

  1. Commenting just to say this garden series (and your blog) has been a great gift to me in the midst of our state shelter at home order! I've been baking bread with more confidence, and we are about ready to plant our garden this year. I grew up helping my Granddad in the garden, but have yet to brave one of my own with four kids six and under. Seeing you and your crew go for it (and reading all of your tips) has me excited to include them in the process and get planting! Thanks!!


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