Gardening Notes: Seeds or Seedlings?

This is the time to begin planning the season's gardening activities. One set of choices we have involves whether we buy, trade, or save seeds and plant them or whether we buy seedlings ready to transplant from the local garden center. Here are some considerations.

Planting your own seeds indoors to set out as transplants later.

Advantages:  There is a greater choice of varieties from seed catalogs and even from the hardware store seed rack; buying seeds is more economical than buying seedlings; your seedlings will be available at times when commercial seedlings might not be; and there is a sense of satisfaction in the whole operation. Some garden plants, of course, can only be planted as seeds (carrots, beets, etc.) because they are difficult to transplant.

Disadvantages: Growing seedlings from seeds requires an appropriate space, patience, and attention (which may not all be disadvantages).

Buying seedlings at the garden center.

Advantages: You have "instant plants." You don't need a seed-starting work area nor do you need to do the work.

Disadvantages: The choice of varieties may be limited, the expense may be greater than if you grew them yourself; you may not have seedlings (for succession or fall planting) when you need them.

Refer to the "Deciding What to Plant" section (pp. 174-175) of my book Gardening: An Ecological Approach.