When To Use Seeds Or Transplants In The Vegetable Garden

There is always much debate over whether to use seedling transplants or sow seeds directly in the vegetable garden. Many vegetable gardeners will attest that sowing seeds directly in the garden is the best practice to obtain maximum production, while other gardeners will say using transplants jump starts the growth of the plants. Here are some guidelines you can use to determine what you can transplant and what should be directly sowed into the garden.

Vegetables That Love To Be Transplanted

    • TomatoesTomatoes love to be transplanted. A tomato plant can actually be transplanted several times and still produce an abundant amount of fruit. Many gardeners prefer to start tomatoes by seed in small pots, then transplant them into larger pots as the plant grows until it is ready to set in the garden. Tomatoes are the most popular garden plant purchased at garden centers as seedlings then transplanted in the garden. Starting seeds indoors in late winter/early spring is a great way to get a jump on your tomato production.
    • Peppers – All different varieties of peppers thrive when tranplanted – everything from bell peppers to poblano peppers, to jalapenos. Peppers can also be started by seed in small pots or purchased as seedlings.
    • EggplantEggplant is another vegetable that can be transplanted successfully in the garden. Don’t be in a hurry to set out eggplant in the garden as they need soil that is at least 70° F in order to grow and thrive. Eggplant loves hot weather – the hotter the better!.

Vegetables That Should Be Directly Sowed In The Garden

    • Okra – Because okra has a long taproot, the seeds should be sowed directly into the garden soil. If you must transplant okra into the garden make sure the seedling has only developed two of its true leaves. Try to avoid disturbing the roots.
    • Beans and Corn – Beans and corn should always be sowed directly into the garden. These crops perform much better by direct sowing. Crop yields will be significantly lower if you try to transplant or if the roots of these plants are overly disturbed.
    • Root crops – Seeds of any root crop such as beets, onions, potatoes, radishes, parsnips, or carrots should always be sowed directly in the garden. Attempting to transplant root crops will usually end in dead or unproductive plants.

There are many vegetable plants that can be successfully grown by using either method. Cucumbers, squash, kale, pumpkin, melons and gourds can be grown by transplanting or by sowing the seeds directly in the garden. When transplanting these vegetables be sure not to disturb the roots and provide some shade during very hot days until the plants are well established.

If you are growing a vegetable from seed that you intend to transplant, try using peat pots or other biodegradable pots that can be planted in the vegetable garden with the plant. They will slowly decompose and add some nutrients to the soil and plant. It is a great alternative to plastic pots that typically end up in landfills.

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4 Comments on When To Use Seeds Or Transplants In The Vegetable Garden

  1. Absolutely fantastic gardeners article. Can I just add:
    Buying Plant Seed – Plan Ahead
    When buying seeds it is easy to get carried away by thoughts of flower beds filled with row upon row of glorious colour. Do not forget that the plants need to be raised in frost free and light conditions until as late as May when the weather warms up sufficiently to plant them in the garden. Consider carefully how much space will be available, particularly in April when the tiny seedlings will have increased in size considerably

    • Hi Paul – super advice! Thank you so much for sharing. Planning ahead is very crucial when starting a garden, especially when buying seed. It is very easy to get a little too ambitious when purchasing seed. Everything looks so beautiful and exciting! Self control is sometimes the most important virtue for a gardener.

      Thanks for your comment!


  2. Hi Holly, I live in Mesa…we are neighbors 🙂  

    How long have you been gardening? It has been a few years for us now…lots of fruit trees and some veggies…we had built some raised beds and gotten some soil that was supposed to be great but turns out needs more work than we bargained for…needless to say, our spring garden has very little in it…we are working on this before we start the next round…hopefully it will be ready for a fall garden…

    sounds like your garden is really healthy…what kind of soil do you have (native, bags, etc) and what kind of fertilizers do you use?

    Look forward to chatting with you!

  3. Hi from the Gila Valley. I'm at the southeastern end of the state. I'm growing eggplant, okra, Swiss chard in pots. We can't keep enough water on the garden, so shut it down for now. I grow a lot of herbs, but they are suffering in the heat and wind this year. Had a great winter garden, though!


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