Thursday, March 21, 2013

Which Plants are Best to Sow Directly in the Garden

We’ve still got weeks (OK months) until our last frost here in zone 5, but already we have seeds planted inside in containers just breaking through the surface of the soil.  Creating a planting plan for your garden and figuring out when to plant each seed often feels like a daunting task.  While many plants do well with an early start in the warmth of your house, some seeds are perfectly fine, and some actually prefer, to be sown directly into your garden.  

Before you decide to direct sow seeds into your garden, check the length of your growing season, and compare this to the growing season required for the produce to mature (you can usually find this on the back of the seed pack or in a gardening book). Anything you put into your garden must have enough time to reach maturity before the next cold season sets in.  Remember that many of the candidates for direct sowing include plants that can survive in cooler temperatures (lettuce and peas).

Before I share some of the plants to start outside, take a look at some seeds that I believe do best started under protection or inside and transplanted:
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Eggplant
What to Sow Directly

In general, the larger seeds do well planted directly outside.   The rule (mostly true) is to plant the seed at twice the depth of its diameter, so these seeds are planted deeper and their roots are thus more protected from the weather: think corn, peas, beans, and squash. While many of these are available to purchase as seedlings, we’ve found just as much success with directly planting them in the garden. Starting from a pack of $3 seeds also can save you a significant amount of money when you compare this to the cost of seedlings.  On the flip side, the really itsy bitsy seeds (such as lettuce and kale) are also good for direct sowing since it is difficult to find and plant just a single seed in a container.  

Root vegetables do not transplant well, and are therefore best planted directly in the ground.  This includes carrots, radishes, beets, and turnips.   Since the roots are what create the crop, bent roots inside containers can cause bent or discouraged vegetables. Many flowering annuals are also wonderful to sow directly into the garden.

No matter whether you direct sow or transplant seedlings into your garden, make sure you take time to prepare your garden bed before you plant.  Depending on what you did in the fall, add compost, and plant your seeds according to the directions on the seeds pack or gardening book, and make sure you wait until the soil warms enough for each crop: it’s easy to want to get out there in the spring and start planting, but your plants will be healthier if you plant at the correct time.

If planting seeds indoors doesn’t work for you, don’t despair, you can easily plant enough seeds directly into the garden to fill it up with delicious food.  Even if you start seeds inside, remember that some seeds just do better without being transplanted and save those seeds for planting outside.

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