When you’re starting a garden, you might be a bit unsure as to whether you should start from seed or purchase greenhouse-grown seedlings. After all, both methods are common practice in the gardening world, so it’s understandable that you might not be sure if one is better than the other.
The truth is, there are pros and cons for both seed starting and transplanting seedlings. Honestly, it’s really a matter of preference—different gardeners have different needs! So, to help you make an informed decision about seedlings vs. seeds, we compiled all the benefits and downsides of each method.
The Advantages of Starting a Garden from Seeds
Some people love starting from square one when they grow their garden, watching a tiny seed sprout into a huge, food-bearing plant. But on top of the satisfaction of creating something amazing out of something minuscule, there are some major benefits to seed starting.
- More bang for your buck. A packet of 50 seeds could end up costing the same amount as a single seedling!
- It’s not difficult. All seed packets come with clear instructions on the back. If you follow them closely, you aren’t likely to encounter any issues.
- You get a head start on gardening season. After a long winter, we’re eager for some greenery to perk things up! Starting seeds indoors is an awesome way to get your gardening fix and brighten up those slushy, grey days.
- You have complete control over pesticides and products. Not all greenhouses use the same kinds of pesticides, and some formulas aren’t pollinator-friendly. If you start your own seeds and use eco-friendly products, you can be 100% certain your plants are organic and safe for bees and butterflies.
- Kids love it! A seedling garden is like a mini science lab for school-aged kids. Teach them basic plant biology as their seedlings develop, and then crack into some biochemistry with a crash course on fertilizers!
- There’s lots of cool equipment to help you get started. To ensure your seeds get just the right amount of light and humidity, you can buy a mini greenhouse. They come with a built-in UV lamp that runs on a timer to ensure strong seedlings that are sufficiently sunlit.
Downsides to Starting Seeds Indoors
There are some things to keep in mind when considering seeds over seedlings, and while they might be deal breakers for some, others may find them pretty manageable!
- You need a lot of space. If you have a small yard, you likely won’t have an issue. But if you plan on filling up a large garden, you’re going to need a considerable amount of space to keep all those sprouting seeds.
- Startup costs might be high. While seed starting will definitely save you money in the long-term, you might find yourself splurging on equipment like sun lamps in the beginning.
- Timing is important. If you start your seeds too early, you might end up with spindly and weak seedlings if they don’t get access to direct sun in time. If you start some seeds too late in the year, you might not get to enjoy a ripe harvest before winter arrives. Make a seeding calendar based on your area’s estimated last frost date and start your seeds accordingly.
- You can’t take a vacation. You’ll need to monitor your seedlings pretty vigilantly for the first month, so you can’t just fly away to Florida and not water them for two weeks.
- Pests and diseases might attack. New plants are very vulnerable to diseases like “damping off,” a fungal infection that can quickly kill a new seedling. You’ll also need to look out for aphids and other critters—they love to prey on tender young plants! Use a natural soap spray to kill them without harming your plants or introducing chemicals into your home.
- Some seeds are finicky. The germination rates of your seeds might vary. Some are pretty low-maintenance, while others can be trickier to sprout successfully. If you want advice on easy seeds to sprout, talk to one of our experts at Meyer!
- The hardening-off process can be complicated. Seedlings will be more successful if you gradually expose them to outdoor elements before planting them outside. Bringing your seedlings outside during the day and inside at night can prove to be very helpful but a bit tedious.
Pros to Buying Seedlings vs. Seeds
It’s so convenient having greenhouse-grown seedlings that are properly hardened off and ready to plant. It’s less time and less effort, but the advantages don’t end there!
- Greenhouses are pros. If you want to ensure your plants are strong and healthy, not spindly and underdeveloped, then you should buy from experienced growers like us!
- They don’t take up any space in the house. Just pick up your plants from the greenhouse, bring them home, and plant them that afternoon!
- You can buy exactly how many you need. When you sprout seeds, the results can be unpredictable. Sometimes you might end up with more than you bargained for or less than you’d hoped.
- Less time spent on pest control. They’re much more vulnerable during the early stages, so your job will be easier when you buy a developed plant!
- Your local greenhouse has great picks. If you buy seeds, especially from online sources, there’s a chance they might not be suited to your home’s climate. We always take care to pick high-quality, resilient varieties that will thrive here in the Quad Cities.
- Plants with long maturation times are easier to grow. Plants like melons, which need to grow for several months before bearing fruit, can be purchased when they’re already well developed, early in the season.
Cons to Buying Seedlings from a Greenhouse
While purchasing healthy seedlings is certainly the easier, less time-consuming option, there are a couple of things to consider before going the greenhouse route.
- The cost is higher for large gardens. If you want to stay on a budget, seeds will help cut costs.
- You don’t always know what pesticides have been used. That being said, if you ever visit Meyer and are unsure of what products have been used on our seedlings, you’re more than welcome to ask one of our store associates!
- Some plants don’t transplant well. Certain vegetables, like beans, carrots, peas, and cucumbers, are more successful if they’re directly seeded into the ground.
- Selections are limited. In a perfect world, greenhouses would have every new, trendy hybrid plant on the market. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough shelf space for that, so if there’s a cool new plant you’ve been dying to get, you might need to special order the seeds!
Whatever side you stand on in the seedlings vs. seeds debate, Meyer Landscape & Design has everything you need to get started! Visit us soon to see all the exciting new landscape plants, veggies, and flowers in store for 2021.