When winter and summer come to an end, we often see our local garden centers filling with seasonal plant starts: cucumber, tomatoes, squash, and beans among others for spring and summer; kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, onions, and the like for fall or winter. And there is no better time to think about the advantages of direct-sowing seeds versus buying plant starts. What downsides could there possibly be to buying a plant that has already begun to grow, you ask?
Ever wonder why people suggest unwinding roots to lay them flat in soil? It’s to get as many of the roots in contact with soil as quickly as possible. Root bound plants aren’t as as quick to become established. They’ll take longer to flower the first time. Plants want to get started as early, and become as productive, as possible.
Root Bound, adj.: When a potted plant has grown roots until they line the side of the pot such that you can’t see soil when the pot is removed.
When we direct-sow seeds, there is little chance of the roots breaking while they are handled. I’ll say that plant starts are, for the most part, able to withstand a lot. But imagine how much better off the plant will be having spent the energy to grow those roots down exactly where they need to be? No need for you to unwind them! They don’t get to do much except take in water when wrapped in circles, by the way. Contact with soil is important! This is the reason we re-pot indoor plants to bigger pots. So they can get bigger and thrive.
As soon as weather conditions permit, you’ll begin to see a ton of growth with direct sown plants. They’ve got the head start, and they’re on the startling line. With starts, the idea is the same, because the start is grown in a warm greenhouse before the end of winter. But if the plant’s roots aren’t all distributed correctly, there will still be some lag before it really takes off in your garden.
Seeds are 100 for $2-3 or something similar.They are cheaper because there was less labor needed to produce them. Starts are often that much or more PER PLANT! Knowing how to grow from seed will save you money over time. And let me tell you, the satisfaction factor is much higher with self-sowing.
A Good Solution
Covering your direct-sown seedlings under a garden bed cover or hoop house (not for raised beds, unless it’s a big raised bed!) is a great option. Using dark plastic to cover the soil will also raise the temperature of the soil considerably. These options protect vulnerable seedlings earlier in the year when frost is still pervasive, enough to where your seedlings will come up earlier than last frost and get a big head start. The kind of start you’re wanting from a plant start, but with better root distribution. For winter crops, well you could build a climate controlled greenhouse. Since that’s expensive, maybe you’d like to plant your own starts indoors and set them out just before they become root-bound. Check as they grow but looking at the bottom of the pot and watching for the roots to show up near the holes. You can still buy starts, but checking them for being root bound before you buy is crucial. As you’ll see though, there are still more reasons to plant from seed.
Self-Discipline and Skills Development
Growing a plant from seed requires patience, something tech companies and app developers seem to deliberately want gone from our personalities. Heck, if you have read this far, I’d like to congratulate you! So what can seeds teach us about self development?
When you put a seed in the ground, it usually takes between a few days to a few weeks to sprout. You’ll NEED to be diligent in tending to them with water and guaranteeing correct soil temperature. If you’ve never felt connected to nature, you’ll feel it in its entirety by planning ahead, engineering your soil, direct sowing seeds, and watching their progress over the course of the year.
Root health will be better if the plant sprouts and develops where it will be growing for its lifetime. The price for seeds is cheaper versus starts. Building an inexpensive cover or hoop-house will lead to better development in early spring. Growing your own plant starts will lead to more control, whether it is spring planting or fall crops. You’ll develop better habits and become a grounded, more patient individual, leading to a healthier outlook in other parts of your life. In the end, there are no downsides to growing from seed!
Do you agree? Discussion is the seed of growth! Let other readers know in the comments below.
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