Gardeners have three options when acquiring vegetables for their garden. Buy and plant the seed direct, plant seeds indoors and transplant, or buy vegetable plants from garden centers that are already started. This article will weigh the pros and cons of each method.
Sowing seed directly into the ground: Seed sown into the ground will do well if given proper care. Gardeners must know what the seedling looks like and keep weeds down, without weeding the seedlings of the vegetables. Generally, larger seeds are easier to grow, but almost all seeds can be grown with proper care. Seeds must be planted at the depth recommended on the package, and watered every day unless it is rainy. Seed may wash out with heavy rains also; protect with a row cover if heavy rain is expected. Seeds generally sprout in 1-2 weeks. After a month, the plants are generally strong enough to survive as if they were bought from the garden center. This method is the most cost efficient, as a seed package that usually contains a hundred seeds costs less than a single vegetable plant.
Growing from seed indoors: This method is optimal with use of a greenhouse. Otherwise, plants will need to be grown in a sunny window. The idea is to gain a few weeks on the season while allowing plants to have some size when they are planted outdoors. However, plants need to be acclimated first, by being brought out to a sheltered place during the days for a week. Then, in transplanting, injury must be avoided. Seeds grown indoors can be spindly; spindly plants are more likely to break or wilt. To avoid plants being spindly, provide as much light as possible while indoors. Water transplanted plants and provide partial shelter from sun until established. A cloudy day is optimal for transplanting, to give plants time to adjust.
Buying plants from garden centers: Plants bought from garden centers are already large and have been started weeks or even months in advance. They are most likely to transplant successfully and to establish themselves seamlessly. However, grown annuals generally cost more; a flat of four plants can run over two dollars, but now garden centers sell bigger plants in four, six, or even eight inch pots ranging from three to eight dollars per plant. The produce from each plant may barely compensate for the price spent on it. Select plants that are growing vigorously and avoid plants that are pot-bound, yellow, or look like they have sat in the pot too long. Once a plant has been in the pot too long, it will need to have its roots pruned and spread out and then take time to transition. A vigorous plant’s roots simply transition their momentum from filling the pot to filling the soil, allowing a smooth transition.
These are the pros and cons of seeds, planting seedlings, and buying plants at a garden center. By knowing what each option entails in benefits and cost in time or money, gardeners can choose the option that suits their preference.