By Su Reid-St. John
Looking for a quick, easy way to plant up your vegetable or herb garden? Consider using ready-to-plant seedlings (also called transplants or starts) for just about everything but root crops. They’re worth the difference in price when you tally up the advantages over planting seeds. Consider these five reasons to plant seedlings:
These lettuce and basil seedlings are just going into the ground, yet they’ll soon be ready for harvesting.
You get a head start. When you buy seedlings, you’re buying plants that are typically several weeks old, and have been nurtured through the most delicate early stages of growth by professional growers in a greenhouse . It’s like buying an already-roasted chicken at the grocery store — a lot of the work has already been done for you.
You can start later. It happens to everyone at some point: You have every intention to start your garden, then something comes up and by the time you get around to planting, it’s days (or weeks) later. Seedlings help make up for the lost time.
You get instant satisfaction. Sow seeds in the garden and you’ll be staring at a bed of soil for a while. Put seedlings in there and voila! It looks like you’ve actually planted something. Seeing all that green out there from the get-go can be very inspiring.
Your garden starts out stronger. Well-grown seedlings started in a greenhouse (think ideal temperature, moisture, and feeding) have been reared in conditions that encourage well-developed root systems and vigorous growth. Plus, there’s less of a chance that they’ll be affected by cutworms, damping off, or other problems that can bother recently germinated plants.
Harvest-time comes sooner. It just makes sense: The closer a plant is to maturity, the sooner it will bear fruit. Seedlings can put you weeks closer to harvest time . That means you can enjoy that garden-fresh bowl of salad, BLT, or homemade salsa that much sooner.
It’s worth noting that root crops, such as carrots and beets, need to be started from seed because they simply don’t grow well from seedlings. A few other crops, such as big-seeded pole beans and tall peas, which get lanky quickly as seedlings, are also easy to start directly in the garden.