It’s time again to start thinking about how to get that garden started. University of Missouri Horticulture Specialist Marlin Bates explains that plants can be started two ways. Bates says it is difficult to produce good transplants so starting from seeds may be more beneficial.
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To Seed or To Transplant?
By Marlin Bates, Horticulture Specialist
(BLUE SPRINGS, MO) A fundamental and often overlooked decision in planting a garden is whether to directly seed a crop into the soil or to place transplants of a crop into the garden. Gardeners typically allow this decision to be made for them. If transplants of a particular crop are available, it’s easy to assume that transplanting is the preferred method of placing that crop in the garden. While this may be true for most crops that are available as transplants, it’s not always the case.
There are many benefits to placing transplants in the garden, namely the head start that plants get by being grown in a controlled environment for several weeks before being placed in the garden. Gardeners should realize that some crops do not tolerate being transplanted very well. This means that the benefit of the head start may not be realized because the plant was unable to get a good start in the garden and is not likely to perform well during the season. For these crops it is not only more economical, but also more successful to sow seed directly in the garden after soil temperatures have warmed sufficiently for that crop.
Just as surely as some crops perform best when directly seeded into the garden, there are some crops that benefit from being transplanted into the garden. This is where the other benefits of transplanting come to play. Some vegetable seeds simply do not germinate uniformly, so transplant production of these crops allows for the producer to select the best seedlings to grow on. Additionally, many warm-season vegetable seeds require relatively high soil temperatures in order to germinate and are slow to establish, so there may be up to a 4-6 week head start on production by placing these crops in the garden as transplants. Conversely, warm-season plants that germinate and grow quickly are often not worth the added investment of transplanting.
Use this chart to help decide which plants to direct seed or transplant into the garden:
As noted in the table, more vegetables should be direct seeded than should be transplanted into the garden. Certainly, this is not an all-inclusive list, and some plants may achieve best performance with different planting methods depending on season. For instance, broccolli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower should be direct seeded in mid-summer for a fall crop, but benefit from being transplanted in the spring for an early crop.
Dollar-for-dollar, direct seeding may yield a larger harvest, unless gardeners are good at producing their own transplants. However, it is worth the added cost of purchasing -or extra work producing – transplants to obtain good, healthy stock of certain garden vegetables to be placed into the garden.
For more information, contact specialist’s name, number, e-mail or visit your local Extension Center or extension.missouri.edu.