You can start your vegetable plants either by growing them from seeds or by purchasing seedlings ready to be transplanted into your garden. Both of these options have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the best option for you will mostly depend on the time and money that you can invest into starting your vegetable plants.
If you are starting from seeds, there are two ways that you can start. One is direct seeding and the other is transplanting. Direct seeding involves sowing seeds directly into the garden space allotted. Then, once the seeds have germinated and grown, the seedlings are ‘thinned’, meaning that some of them are removed, so that proper spacing is created between the remaining seedlings.
Another way of starting seeds is to start them in smaller pots or seed trays. Then, once the seedlings have grown at least their first set of true leaves, which are the second set of leaves after the seed leaves (cotyledons), the plants are removed from the smaller pots and transplanted into the allocated garden space. The designated garden space may be an area directly in the ground, in a raised bed, or in a container large enough to allow the plant to mature.
Transplanting seedlings grown from seeds has many benefits:
- You can get a head start on the growing season by starting your vegetable plants indoors before it’s warm enough outside (you shouldn’t start them too early, though).
- You can start a few more seeds than you’ll need and then select the healthiest.
- By starting your seeds in smaller pots or seed trays, you’ll save on space and the amount of care required.
- You can practice succession planting by starting seeds at different times, which is ideal for fast-growing vegetables, such as lettuce.
- You can grow stronger vegetables by protecting and providing your seedlings with the correct amount of light, water, and nutrients.
The choice between direct seeding and transplanting seedlings grown from seed mainly depends on the type of vegetable you’ll be growing. Some vegetables are best grown from transplants, some don’t mind being transplanted, while others must be direct seeded to get the best results.
Vegetables and herbs that do best when they are transplanted:
Onions (bulbing & bunching)
Before transplanting these in your garden, it’s best to harden them off by gradually introducing them to outdoor conditions over a week or two.
Similarly, it’s also important to know, which vegetables don’t do so well with being transplanted and should be direct seeded.
Vegetables that require care while transplanting:
- Beets/ Beetroot
See note on carrot below for more information
- Gourd family vegetables: Cucumbers, Melons, Pumpkins, and Squash
Vegetables in the gourd family will regain growth after ‘transplant shock’, which is a period of reduced or no growth just after transplanting, but the yield will be less than if they were directly sown.
Vegetables that are not recommended to be transplanted:
Beans and peas are legumes, which have an intricate root system that includes nitrogen-fixing root nodules. Transplanting may break down this system.
Carrots don’t react well to disturbances to their taproot, which is what grows to be a carrot, so it’s best to direct seed. Similar to beets, radish, and turnip, transplanting carrots also doesn’t make much sense because of the close spacing of 2-3” that they can grow with.
Corn usually doesn’t do too well with being transplanted because the seedlings easily become rootbound, resulting in plants that aren’t healthy enough. So, it’s best to direct seed.
Many types of vegetables benefit from being transplanted. You can either grow the transplants from seeds by yourself or purchase seedlings from a nursery. Despite this, there are a few vegetables that do better when directly seeded or need some extra care while transplanting.
Now that you know which vegetables should be and shouldn’t be transplanted, it’s time to get to work – find out how to properly transplant your vegetable seedlings for a healthy vegetable garden.