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  • Writer's pictureNeta

Growing Veggies from Seeds or Starters?

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

Growing your own food is a great experience which can take a few shapes. Garden centers offer a big selection of mature vegetable plants, starters (or “plugs”) and seeds. Which way is the best to grow? I think it depends on what your main objectives are: do you grow for health? taste? are you interested is special varieties? how much effort are you planning to invest in the process?

The green kohlrabi plant in the picture is a starter I planted a month ago. The other plant is a purple kohlrabi, which I started from seed the same day. As you can see, the starter plant is more mature, but on the other hand, purple kohlrabi is special, and the seeds are organic, which is a plus.

In this post I want to share with you some pros and cons to help you decide if it’s best to grow from seeds or plant starters. When I refer to starters, I’m not talking about buying a fully matured plant, but a pack of seedlings which are ready to be planted outdoors.

Here is when I would prefer starting from seeds:

Growing organically- In general, when you grow from seed, you have more control over the process, and you know which kinds of materials are in your food. If you are growing organically, make sure to use organic seeds or starters. In both cases, there will be less selection, but still, you will find more types of organic vegetable seeds. Some organic starters are available, if there’s no marking on the starter’s label, the little plant wasn’t grown organically.

I am looking to grow a specific kind of vegetable- In most cases you will not know which exact kind of plant you are getting when you buy a starter. If you are after a specific tomato variety, you will need to start from seeds.

It’s not the right season to plant- if you buy a starter, you will have to plant it in its spot and the sooner the better. If it’s too cold outside, for instance, there is no point to plant lettuce starters (unless you have a greenhouse, or you plan to grow on your windowsill), but you can start them from seeds indoors, and by the time they will grow into seedlings you will be able to plant them outside.

Some veggies need to be sowed at their final spot- Radishes, carrots, turnips and alike do best if you sow them at their final spot. Beetroot is also a root veggie, but they can be grown from starters.

Other roots and tubers like potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes should be grown from seed or tuber. Some brassicas like bok choy and cime di rapa, do best when they are sowed directly to place, because transplanting them may encourage the plant to flower prematurely.

Cut and come again salads and micro greens have to be started from seeds, since they are harvested very early in the growing process.

I am looking to perfect my gardening skills and learn- practice makes perfect, growing from seeds will bring you to a master’s level. I personally find it a rewarding experience with plenty of opportunities to learn. Growing from seeds will also build your confidence as a gardener.

I am looking to educate- Growing from seeds allows you to teach your kids how the full process looks like. Seeing seeds sprouting is exciting and interesting, especially if you are growing a variety of plants.

Seeds are more affordable- one starter can cost as much as a seed packet with 50 seeds for example. If you need a big number of seedlings, the difference in cost is

Go for starters when:

You are a beginner- You want to start growing vegetables and enjoy the experience, but you don’t have enough experience to grow from seeds, starters will give you the confidence to begin growing.

It’s too late to start from seeds- it’s the beginning of summer and you realize you want to grow tomatoes? better plant a starter since starting from seeds means you will miss the right harvest season.

You are looking for a decorative effect- Aspiring to plant a beautiful potager? Since starters grow in nursery conditions, they look good and the plants come at a standard size. Also, since you are able to see how the young plant looks like, it’s easier to think about a certain design or planting pattern you want to achieve. It’s also easier to get the exact number of plants you need per design.

You can’t start seedlings indoors- If you don’t have a good spot on your windowsill or you just don’t want to bring soil indoors. Planting a starter directly outdoors is a good solution in such a situation.

I don’t want to be burdened by choices- Selecting seeds is a mind-boggling experience, I personally find it fun, but the endless choices may be confusing and even discouraging to persons with a very limited time. You will have to choose from a much-limited selection of available starters, and what you see is what you get.

You are feeling spontaneous- You harvested some veggies or took out some annual flower plants and you find yourself with free spots? Planting starters here and there to fill-in the gaps is a good solution for maximizing your garden’s productivity.

You are not looking to commit- growing from seeds comes with a commitment. You will need to seed trays (or another suitable container to raise seeds), seedling soil, buy seed packets and very importantly- you must be there to water frequently and monitor progress, as the seeds germinate. Starters are more expensive than seeds, but you plant them in their spot and you are done. All you need is to water on dry periods.

Can you think of more pros and cons? I’ll be happy to hear about it, leave a comment below!


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