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Seeds or seedlings?

Both seeds and seedlings have their own benefits and drawbacks. Rather than a question of which is better, it is more a question of which suits your individual needs. This will vary depending on factors such as:

  • How much you want to plant and what budget you have to spend.
  • Is there enough of the growing season left for your plant to mature from seed.
  • Are they varieties that transplant well?
  • Do you have the time and interest in raising seedlings or do you want to get straight into planting?

The following lists are a good starting point for helping to decide if seeds or seedlings are a better choice for your garden. Asking your local garden centre about the varieties of seeds and seedlings they have in stock is another great way to determine which varieties best suits your needs and preferences.

The benefits of planting seeds

  • Seeds are much better value than seedlings.
  • You can collect and store your own seeds at the end of each growing season.
  • Certified organic and untreated seeds are not relatively easy to obtain. 
  • Unusual or heritage varieties are often only available by seed. 
  • Some seeds can be grown directly in the soil but others need to be grown first in seed trays and transplanted.
  • Hot weather can prevent germination of autumn seeds or give a poor germination rate.
  • Some seeds have naturally low viability and germination rates. Check the packet for details. 
  • Seeds sown too thickly will need thinning out.

The benefits of planting seedlings

  • Easier and less time consuming than growing from seed.
  • Gives you a 'kick start' into the season. May save up to 6 weeks of growing time.
  • Allows you to grow only what you need thus minimising wastage.
  • Can be difficult to obtain organic vegetable seedlings or unusual varieties. 
  • Plants may suffer from transplant shock if not properly removed from punnets.
Seedlings in a terracotta pot