You’re at the garden store, looking at the racks and racks of plants. You want to start a garden, but you’re not sure where to begin. Do you buy seeds or starts? Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to choose based on your needs and goals. Not sure how to decide? This blog post will help you figure out which is right for you.

What’s the difference between seeds and starts?

To put it simply, seeds are baby plants. They’re dormant, waiting to sprout and grow into full-fledged plants. Starts, on the other hand, are young plants that have already begun to grow. They’re usually a few weeks old and have their first set of true leaves. 

There are a few key differences between seeds and starts. First, seeds are much cheaper than starts. Second, starting with seeds means you have a greater variety of plants to choose from. Third, growing from seed can be more rewarding—but it’s also more work. Let’s take a closer look at each of these points and explore a few tips to succeed with either option.

Seeds are cheaper than starts

If you’re on a budget, seeds are definitely the way to go—they cost pennies compared to the dollars you’ll spend on starts. Of course, you’ll need more patience too; it can take weeks or even months for your seeds to germinate and grow into plants. 

Also, you may end up with way more seeds than you need if you have a small garden! Consider setting up a seed-sharing system with a gardening friend.

Starts are hardier and don’t require as much attention

Keep in mind: buying nursery starts can be expensive, but they are more reliable and can go directly into the garden. They may even work out to be fairly cost-effective when you buy in bulk. Consider how much time and attention you can dedicate to your garden. If you don’t have a lot of extra time on your hands, or you are a beginner gardener, it might be best to grow your plants from starts.

More variety with seeds

When you buy seeds, you have access to thousands—even tens of thousands—of different varieties of plants. Not sure which tomato variety you want to grow? Buy multiple packets of seeds and try them all! Or grow flowers from seed and create your own unique bouquets all summer long! The sky’s the limit when you start with seeds. 

Seed starting is more rewarding (but also more work) 

There’s something truly satisfying about watching a tiny seedling grow into a full-fledged plant over the course of several weeks (or even months). If you have the time and patience, we recommend starting with seeds. Just be warned: it’s not as simple as planting and forgetting. You’ll need to provide extra care and attention during those crucial early weeks—but it will be worth it when your plants finally bloom! 

How to start plants from seed:

First, choose your seed. There are a variety of options available, so do some research to find the best type of seed for your climate and gardening goals. 

Once you have your seed, it’s time to start planting. Look at the back of the seed packet, and research local frost dates to determine what day you should start your seeds to prepare them for spring (or fall) planting. If you have a short growing season, you need to start your seeds indoors 6-8 weeks early. If you live in a temperate climate, you may be able to sow seeds directly into your outdoor garden.

 First, fill a container with potting mix and moisten it. Egg cartons are a great, budge and eco-friendly container for seed starting! Then, make a small indentation in the soil and place your seed inside. Be sure to plant several seeds, as not all of them will germinate. 

After the seeds are planted, cover them lightly with more soil and water gently. Place the container in a sunny spot indoors and keep the soil moist. In a few weeks, you should see your first seedlings emerging! You might need to purchase a grow light to keep your seedlings from getting stretched out and “leggy” due to lack of sun. 

Continue watering your seeds regularly until it’s time to move them outdoors. Before transplanting them into your garden, harden them off by slowly acclimating them to outdoor conditions by moving the tray outdoors for a few hours every day. With a little patience and care, you’ll be on your way to a beautiful garden in no time!

How to grow plants from starts:

If you’re looking for a faster and easier way to get your garden going, starting with plants from starts is the way to go. Here are a few tips for growing healthy plants from starts.

Choose the right start. When purchasing starts from a nursery, look for healthy plants with strong roots and green leaves. Avoid starts that are leggy or have yellowing leaves.

Once you’ve chosen your starts, it’s important to plant them in well-drained, quality soil. If the soil is too wet, the roots will rot; if it’s too dry, the plant will wither and die. Remember, you should plant starts at the same depth they are growing in the container or as indicated on the care tag. If they are too deep, they may rot; if they are too shallow, they may not have enough roots to support themselves.

Water starts immediately after planting and keep them moist (but not soggy) until they are established. After that, water according to the needs of the specific plant.

It can take a little while for your starts to really take off, so don’t give up if they seem slow at first. Just keep giving them lots of love and attention, and soon enough you’ll have a thriving garden full of beautiful plants.

Following these simple tips will help you grow healthy plants from starts that are vigorous and thrive in your garden for years to come!

You do you!

So which should YOU choose: seeds or starts? The answer depends on your needs and goals. If you want instant gratification (and don’t mind spending a little extra), go for starts. If you’re patient (and on a budget), stick with seeds. No matter which route you choose, I wish you happy growing!

Happy Growing,

Hi There! Susan Here.

(aka the Earthen Mamma)

As a Certified Health Coach, Master Gardener, and Author, my goal is to equip and inspire you to live the healthy and sustainable life you deserve.

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