Starting Seeds Vs. Buying Plants
My celery seedlings. Most of them are looking pretty good!
Finally! Spring is here, and garden planning is in full gear. If you’re anything like me, your tabletops, cold frames, or greenhouse are overflowing with little growing plants getting ready for their new home outdoors. Every year I try growing a different type of plant from seed. And it seems every year I manage to kill several of my tender plants before they even make it into the ground. It can be terribly frustrating. And as I sit mourning the loss of weeks of nursing my plants from seed to seedling, I consider whether I should try to start more from seed, or just buy replacement plants at the local nursery.
This year is proving to be no different. I’ve already annihilated about twenty beautiful cabbage and broccoli plants by freezing their roots overnight in a cold greenhouse. Oops. My mother-in-law so generously went out and bought two flats (24 ct each) of cabbage and broccoli to replace them. What would I do without her? It kinda feels like I cheated by using nursery plants, but in the end food is food, and if these plants do well we’ll be blessed by it.
Although starting plants from seed isn’t the easy way to go, I still prefer it. There are so many advantages to growing your plants from seed. Yes, it’s a lot more work, but there are many good reasons to learning how to grow your garden from seed versus buying nursery plants every year.
If you’re weighing your options and considering whether you should try raising your garden from seed this year, here are some pros and cons for you to consider:
Pros of Buying Seeds:
Variety- When buying plants from a local nursery, you will only have a couple of varieties to choose from. The great thing about seeds is that there are dozens upon dozens of different varieties to drool over. Red carrots, purple potatoes, black tomatoes… so many fun new options!
Cost- By far, seeds are way cheaper than plants. You can buy a pack of seeds for less than $2 and have over 100 seeds in the pack, as opposed to paying about $.50 per plant from the nursery.
Saving Seeds- If you are interested in saving seeds for the next years’ harvest, you need to plant heirloom varieties. Most nurseries will not carry many, if any heirlooms at all, so your best option is to buy heirloom seeds. Not only will your produce be tastier, you’ll only have to invest in seeds one time if you learn to save them properly.
Seed Swapping- Another great thing about having seeds is that you can swap varieties with a friend, or barter with a neighbor.
Less Dependence- Once you learn how to raise your own plants from seed, as well as saving seed from year to year, you’ll no longer depend upon somebody else to start your garden for you. There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to raising your plants from seed, so learning now, before you depend on your garden for survival, is a really good idea.
Cons of Buying Seeds:
Time- Raising plants from seed takes several weeks of daily care before it’s time to transplant to the garden.
Space- When planting your entire garden from seedlings you started yourself, you must have somewhere to put all of those plants while they are germinating and growing. This can take up quite a lot of room, depending on how large your garden will be.
Equipment/Tools- When starting plants from seed, you’ll need containers to plant in, seed starting mix, a spray bottle to water the growing plants, trays to keep the containers in, and grow lights if you don’t have a south facing window, cold frame, or greenhouse.
Loss- You definitely take a chance at loosing plants when you raise them from seed. It’s a tender process. Too much water, too little light, a slip of the hand, a “helpful” or curious toddler… all of these things can kill a fragile seedling in a single day. Not to mention the delicate matter of hardening off your plants to get them used to being outdoors before transplanting. This has been one of the hardest things for me to do without killing plants.
Timing- Planting from seed requires that you know the right time to get your seedlings started. When to start your seeds depends upon your region, and whether the plants are a Spring, Summer, or Fall crop. Seeds need to be started several weeks either before the first frost, before the last frost, or after the last frost, depending on the variety. All of this needs to be taken into consideration to know the exact timing of when you should get your seeds started.
Pros of Buying Plants:
Time- Buying already established plants from a nursery saves you from several weeks of babying tender seedlings. You can have your garden plants in one day. Done.
Space- No worrying about where to keep all of your plants while they grow. When you buy from a nursery, they’re already ready to be put into the ground. Once you figure out where they’re going in the garden, your plants are out of your way for good.
No Equipment Necessary- The plants you buy from a nursery are already hardened off and ready to go straight into the ground. You don’t need any containers or grow lights for nursery transplants.
No Loss- You really don’t have to worry about loss when you buy already established plants. Of course, they can always die once in the garden, but you don’t take the chance of losing seedlings in the growing process like you would when growing your own.
Timing- Is really a no-brainer. When the season is right, you just go and buy plants. No worrying about trying to figure out the exact time to get plants started, somebody has already done that for you.
Cons of Buying Plants:
Cost- Plants are definitely much more expensive to buy than raising your own from seed. You pay a high price to let somebody else do the hard work for you.
Variety- You’re really stuck with very limited options when buying from a nursery. You may have three or four types of tomato plants to choose from, but more often than not you won’t find any exotic and exciting varieties to play with.
Hybrids- You can bet that almost all of the plants you’ll find at the nursery are hybrids, which means that you won’t be able to save seeds for next year. Also, with hybrids you trade flavor and nutrients for hardiness and appearance. If you can find heirloom plants, buy those instead.
Dependence- As long as you rely on a commercial greenhouse to raise your garden plants for you, you’ll always depend on them for your food. Learning to raise plants from seed takes time and experience. There is a huge learning curve if you’ve never tried growing from seed before. But if you want to have food independence, you need to learn how to raise your garden from seed.
I admit, it’s nice to know that I can go out and buy plants for my raised beds if I need to. But it’s so much better knowing that I can raise that same garden for a whole lot less money, that I can have better tasting, more nutrient dense food, and that I don’t have to depend upon somebody else to get my garden started. Growing my garden from seed is a lot of work… but it’s SO worth it!
Do you prefer starting seeds yourself, or would you rather buy nursery plants?