How Gardens Work

Grow It

Seeds and Transplants

Most gardeners plant a combination of seeds and transplants. Plants that grow quickly from seed can be sown (planted) directly into your garden. For plants that take a long time to mature, “transplants” (also called “starts” or “seedlings”) are a better choice. Transplants are baby vegetable plants that have been “started” from seed indoors.  Some plants take several months to mature from seed, so it’s just not practical to start them in the garden, especially where the growing season is short. Transplants can be  started indoors before the outdoor growing season begins. You can start seeds indoors or purchase already started seedlings  grown by commercial growers.  When the weather is right, the seedlings can be safely “transplanted” outdoors.

To start growing into plants that will be  healthy and strong, plants need the right amounts of nutrients, sunshine, warmth and water.

seed-sprout1_0If you take a little seed and add water and warmth… it will start to grow a root and a stem.

seed-sprout2Add sunshine and some nutrients from the soil…

seed-sprout3and the stem will start to produce leaves and then flowers.

seed-sprout4After the flower comes the fruit. The fruit contains seeds and…

it starts all over again with new seeds.

You don’t have to be an expert to start growing plants.

 You have two choices.

Planting Seeds Directly in the Garden


Planting SeedsCheck the back of the seed packet for recommended seed spacing and planting depth. These guidelines are suggested so that mature plants won’t crowd each other and compete for resources. The packet also indicates the best planting time based on the average last frost date for your area.

Make holes or shallow trenches at the recommended depth, plant seeds and cover them with soil. If the soil is very sandy, plant seeds more deeply than recommended; if it is heavy clay, you can cover them with less soil. Place a label with the date and crop/variety name where it can easily be seen.

It’s important to keep the soil constantly moist so the newly planted seeds will germinate. Water the bed gently so the seeds won’t be washed from the soil. A thin layer of organic mulch (such as straw) over seeded beds can help reduce evaporation. Move mulch aside as seedlings emerge to expose them to sunlight. Thin seedlings if necessary, being careful not to disturb the roots of the plants you want to keep.


tapemeasure_kgsThere is a very simple trick to figuring out how deeply to plant seeds. Here it is: Seeds should not be buried any deeper than the thickness of the seed. So, most seeds won’t be planted very deeply except for those really big seeds like peas and beans. For very tiny seeds, place them on the surface of the soil and barely cover with soil or vermiculite. Some seeds even need light to germinate—don’t bury those at all. For those seeds (including lettuce and some flower seeds like calendula and petunia, simply place them on the surface of the soil and press them gently to ensure good contact with the soil.

Plant Seedlings (Transplants)


The transplants can be purchased in pots or “packs” of 4 or 6. Or, you can start your own from seed.

Starting Your Own

The best time to start seedlings depends on the crop and your climate. Check the chart below for more information.

You will need containers and potting mix for planting. Any container at least 3 inches deep will work for seed starting. For the seed-starting soil, you can buy bags of seed-starter mix or you can make your own seed-starting mix by blending equal parts of perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss or coir. Add 1/4 teaspoon of lime to each gallon of mix to neutralize the acidity of the peat. To plant the seeds, moisten the  seed-starting mix in a large container, using enough water so that when you squeeze a handful, the mix has the feel of a moist sponge. Fill each container and press it gently to make sure there are no air pockets. There should be about ½ inch of space between the lip of the container and the soil surface. Make small holes with a pencil eraser at the spacing recommended on the seed packet, and add a few seeds. Cover with seed-starting mix.

Until seeds germinate, keep the soil moist by spraying it with a pump sprayer or mister, and leave in a warm location. You can cover the pots with clear plastic to preserve moisture. Indoors, most vegetable seeds germinate best at soil temperatures between 70 and 75°F, and air temperatures between 65 and 70°F.

TIP: Seeds can benefit from an overnight soak before sowing to get a head start on germination.


  • Radishes
  • Lettuce & greens
  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Raspberries
  • Beets

and don’t forget