Growing Vegetable Plants From Seed


If you’re one of the many Americans who will be cultivating a vegetable garden this year, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether to grow your plants from seed or purchase transplants from a nursery.  In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons to both methods, and we’ll provide a basic how to guide for starting your own plants from seed.There are two primary deciding factors in whether to start plants from seed.  The first is time.  Starting seeds certainly requires a larger investment in time and effort than purchasing transplants.  However, the knowledge that you have grown the plants yourself from their very inception is also quite rewarding.  The other primary consideration is cost.  Seeds are far more economical to purchase than young plants.  A packet of 50 or more seeds might cost you a few dollars.  Transplants, on the other hand, will cost you that same amount per plant.  In short, if you have the time and the inclination, growing your own plants from seed is a very rewarding and economical way to start a vegetable garden.Most gardening experts will agree that the best method of starting seeds is in a greenhouse.  Greenhouses provide optimal conditions for germination and growing: long warm days and ample sunlight during times of year when it is still to cold to even consider planting outside.   Many hobby greenhouses also feature auto venting systems that help regulate the inside temperature.If you’re not ready to invest in a large outdoor greenhouse, consider a smaller portable unit that can sit on a deck or patio.  There are also small indoor greenhouses available that occupy no more space than a shelf or tabletop, and these are ideal for the urban gardener who is limited on space.It is possible, though sometimes more challenging, to start seeds indoors without the aid of a greenhouse.  A large sunny window facing south is ideal.  If you don’t have such a location, consider purchasing fluorescent light fixtures with full spectrum grow lights.  These can be suspended a few inches over young plants and set on timers to provide the necessary 14 hours of light per day.  Ideally, the daytime temperature should be approximately 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the nighttime temperature around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  If plants are in warmer temperatures all day and night, they will grow tall and soft, rather than the stock, robust transplants that are hardier for setting outdoors.Seedlings also need plenty of moisture for germination and early growth.  Planting in a mixture that contains plenty of peat moss will aid in moisture retention.  In the early stages, before seeds have germinated, fill a spray bottle with water and use this to keep the soil moist.  This will prevent overwatering, which can cause seeds to dislodge and wash away.The last important step in growing your own plants from seed is hardening off before transplanting outdoors.  Hardening off refers to the process of preparing plants for the rigors of growing outdoors.  Some gardeners harden off their seedlings by placing them outdoors on a deck or patio during favorable weather conditions for a week or so before transplanting is to occur.  Other methods of hardening off include lowering the temperature where the plants are located, watering only when plants show signs of wilting, and placing a fan nearby to blow a gentle breeze on the seedlings.By following these tips, along with a good dose of patience, any gardener can successfully start their own vegetable plants from seed.  The process may be time consuming, but it is also very satisfying, and you’ll be rewarded with dozens of young plants at a fraction of the cost of purchasing them from a nursery or garden center.

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Ellen Bell works for Home Products ‘n’ More, a retail website offering free shipping on greenhouses to get your seedlings started.  Or, for information how to build your own greenhouse, visit us at

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