Why Bother Starting Seeds Indoors?

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Seasoned gardeners already know the advantages of starting seeds of annuals, vegetables and others indoors, but if you’re just getting started in the gardening world, you might be asking yourself why you should even bother. Here are a few explanations.

1. Because the gardening season isn’t long enough. Many vegetables and annuals need a long growing season before they start to really perform: tomatoes, peppers, petunias, begonias, etc. Sow any of these outdoors and you won’t have anything but green leaves to show for your efforts before summer’s end. They simply need extra time to mature. True enough, if you have a very long growing season, for example, if you live in Southern California or Morocco, yes, you can sow these directly outdoors. Elsewhere, a few weeks to a few months’ head start is necessary.

Ill.: clipart-library.com

2. Because you simply want faster results. OK, there are other annuals and vegetables that will produce a decent harvest or a reasonable number of flowers from a direct sowing outdoors, so you could do that, but do you really to want to wait that long? Starting seeds indoors shaves weeks off the production time of both vegetables and annuals you sow from seed. If you want to chow down extra-early or have flowers before midsummer, start those seeds indoors.

3. Because you can better control conditions compared to sowing outdoors. In the garden, soil can be cold and wet or infected with disease and insects. That, as you can imagine, doesn’t always result in healthy plants! Certain vegetables and flowers need warmth and no more than moderate soil humidity to do well. They’ll do better when started indoors, where’s it’s always warm and where the gardener can add water as needed. Others have pests and diseases to consider and giving them a head start indoors may keep them one step ahead of their enemies.

Save money. Start seeds! Ill.: http://www.vegetablegardener.com & www.pinclipart.com

4. Because it’s cheaper than buying flats and 6-packs of the same plants. In fact, way cheaper! With a bag of potting soil, assorted recycled containers used as pots, trays and domes, and a few packs of seed, an expenditure of perhaps $20 US, you can literally produce hundreds of dollars worth of transplants. With a six-pack of veggies or annuals often selling at $4 and some even selling for $5 per plant, you don’t need to produce that many of your own seedlings in order to save money. 

5. Because the varieties you want to grow just aren’t sold locally. You might think a big garden center would sell every kind of plant possible, but you’d be wrong. They have, in fact, an extremely limited choice. If you’re looking for a specific heirloom vegetable, a tall snapdragon, or indeed anything the slightest bit out of the ordinary, you simply won’t find plants sold locally. Fortunately, seed catalogs offer plenty of less common plants you can grow from seed.

Sometimes commercially-grown plants have been treated with pesticides. Photo: http://www.tibs.com & worldartsme.com

6. Because you want to be sure you’re growing organic vegetables and flowers. Few commercial growers will guarantee that their plants haven’t been treated with pesticides, including the dreaded neonicotinoids. Or that they haven’t shared shelf space with plants that were thus treated. But when you sow the plants yourself, you get to control which pesticides, if any, are used on them. 

7. You enjoy starting seeds indoors.That may seem unlikely to a beginner, but sowing seeds indoors, watching them sprout and grow, babying them as they come up, etc. can be very, very satisfying.

Choose the Right Ones

Not all vegetables and annuals need the extra benefit of being started indoors. In fact, many do best when you sow them outdoors. Here is a short list of popular annuals and vegetables and their preferred sowing situation. 

The information applied below is largely based on gardening in areas with no more than a moderately long growing season (less than 150 days). If you can garden 9 months a year, many more plants could migrate to the “sow outdoors” column.

Vegetables

Sow IndoorsSow Indoors or
Outdoors
Sow Outdoors
Artichoke 
Asparagus 
Basil
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts 
Cabbage 
Cauliflower
Celery 
Eggplant/aubergine 
Ground cherry 
Kale
Leek 
Okra
Onion (from seeds*)
Pepper 
Tomato

Cilantro/coriander
Cucumber 
Endive
Chicory 
Lettuce 
Melon 
Parsley 
Squash (pumpkin,
zucchini, etc.) 






 

Bean 
Beet/beetroot 
Borage 
Broad bean 
Carrot
Pea 
Radish 
Rutabaga 
Spinach
Sweet corn 
Turnip 





*Sow onion from sets (small bulbs) directly outdoors.

Annuals

Sow IndoorsSow Indoors or
Outdoors
Sow Outdoors

Ageratum
Bedding lobelia
Begonia 
Black-Eyed Susan 
Browallia
Carnation
Castor bean 
Coleus 
Dahlia 
Dusty miller
Flowering tobacco
Heliotrope
Impatiens 
Love-lies-bleeding
Madagascar peri-
winkle
Nicotiana 
Pansy
Pelargonium 
Petunia 
Portulaca
Salvia
Snapdragon
Spike Dracaena
Alyssum 
Annual phlox 
Calendula 
Celosia 
China aster 
China pink
Cleome
Cosmos 
Everlasting 
Lavatera
Marigold
Morning glory
Nasturtium
Sweet William 
Zinnia 








Bachelor’s buttons 
California poppy 
Larkspur 
Love-in-a-mist
Opium poppy 
Shirley poppy
Sunflower 
Sweet pea















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