During the first week of March, we give our annual summer U-Pick Garden a headstart by planting the seeds of 5 varieties of tomatoes, 4 varieties of peppers, herbs, cosmos, and marigolds in our temporary greenhouse.
We also start in the greenhouse cosmos and marigolds to be transplanted—these flowers are used to attract beneficial insects to our garden, so that we don’t have to use pesticides.
Once the last frost passes (usually mid-April), we directly sow into the ground squash, zucchini, purple hull peas, green beans, corn, okra, and cucumbers.
But why the difference?
Why not sow all seeds directly into the ground, or transplant all vegetables into the garden once it’s warm enough?
When it comes to successful vegetable production, there’s an important difference between the two methods of planting.
Keep reading to find out why some vegetables do best when sown directly into your garden as seeds, and why some plants thrive when transplanted into your garden.
I’ve also included a list of recommended vegetables to plant as seed vs. transplanting.
The Difference Between Planting as Seed vs. Transplanting
Seeds are the less expensive option between planting as seeds vs. transplanting. A pack of seeds will run you just a couple of dollars, whereas purchasing a mature plant can cost from $4 to upwards of $10 each depending on plant variety.
Plus, you can collect seeds from previous growing seasons to avoid spending money on seeds completely!
With that said, choosing to plant seeds means a longer growing period. Depending on the germination period of a plant and what USDA zone you are located in, you may not have a long enough growing season to reap the rewards of certain vegetables if planted as a seed.
When choosing the seed route, you have a wider variety of plant types (including heirlooms) available to you. Add the option to order seeds online, and the world is practically your oyster when it comes to seed variety choice.
Some vegetables simply don’t do well as transplants, such as root crops like carrots and beets. Others don’t like to be transplanted but, with more upkeep and attention, can be transplanted, like beans and corn. In these instances, seeds are the best, and easier, option.
If Planting Seeds…
Seeds are delicate—you want to plant them only after the final frost has hit your region. To find this information, check your state’s local Ag Extension.
For Tennessee residents, this guide from the UT Ag Extension is the ultimate companion to growing your garden in Tennessee. It includes a to-do guide for each month and also offers tracking charts for garden climate & management, pest & disease management, and more.
Each plant type will have specific care requirements for how much garden space and depth they need to thrive. However, transplanting is a shock to your plant, so there are general rules of thumb to transplanting your vegetable plants.
Transplanting before the brutal heat of summer is best, so make plans to transplant your plants once the soil is warm enough to support them!
Watering your transplant sufficiently is extremely important to your baby plant’s success in its new garden home. Soak your plants in their containers the day before you plan to transplant them, as well as after you have transplanted them into their permanent in-ground home in your garden.
Additionally, if you can protect them from direct sunlight for 3 – 5 days with a temporary cover to allow the new transplants to adjust, even better.
Which Vegetables to Plant as Seed vs. Transplant
Following is a list of recommended vegetables “seed vs. transplant.” This is only a recommendation, because it is possible to grow most veggies from seed in your garden, it just has to be the right soil temperature and time of year.
Vegetables to Plant As Seed:
- Turnip/Collard Greens
- Potatoes (called seed potatoes)
Vegetables to Transplant:
- Peppers (any variety)
Vegetables that work well planted as seed or transplanted:
Where to Buy Seeds and Plants:
- Home Depot
- Ace Hardware
- Dollar General (seed only)
- Local Farm Cooperative
For those local to middle Tennessee:
- Williamson County Co-op (Eddy Lane in Franklin)
Happy planting this spring season! We are always here to help—if you have any questions, please feel free to email me (Leigh) at firstname.lastname@example.org.