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The Difference Between Seeds and Starts – Sow What?

150909_sasaki_radishes_mmSpring is in the air, and it’s the perfect time of year to begin working on your raised bed garden. To ensure you get the gardening experience you desire, you must decide whether to use seeds or starts. Before jumping straight to planting those seeds you’ve been dying to germinate, or running to the nearest garden supply store for transplants, follow this simple guide to help you help your garden.

Starting Seeds

By germinating seeds indoors, you are preparing seedlings that will be planted outdoors at the appropriate time. Starting seeds can be done a few different ways, but it is best to germinate them indoors, as they are easier to monitor and protect from the cold and pests (my favorite way to do this is in egg crates). Once you have chosen your seeds, doing plenty of research about growing requirements and complications of that particular variety will make caring for them much more successful.


  • Seed packets are very inexpensive, and can even be acquired at community seed swaps!
  • Buying seeds awards you with more varieties to choose from.
  • Instructions on seed packets, kits, and potting mix bags are comprehensive and easy to follow.
  • Watching your plants grow from seed to harvest is incredibly gratifying.


  • Seeds take longer to grow and can be frustrating if they don’t survive.
  • Starting seeds indoors takes a little bit more planning, as you are preparing for the growing season in advance.
  • Some seeds don’t germinate as easily indoors.
  • Little seedlings are very delicate and require special care and attention.

Try growing these from seed:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Basil
  • Radish

Planting Starts (or transplants)

150923_sasaki_plantingbokchoy_mmYou might choose to purchase starts for a number of reasons. Perhaps your seedlings didn’t make it, you were out of town when you were supposed to germinate your seeds, or you just don’t want to wait so long for seeds to emerge.  Don’t be afraid to be picky about your choice of starts.  Be certain they look healthy – they should neither have any yellowing or spots on the leaves, nor should they be overgrown. Also check the bottom of the container to see if the roots are protruding from the bottom – these starts have likely been overgrown.


  • Starts can give you an early season boost – and provide visual encouragement when your seedlings are slow-going.
  • Store-bought starts are stronger and less susceptible to pests than seedlings.
  • Investing in starts makes your gardening experience easier, as they come ready-to-plant.
  • Local nurseries supply you with healthy plants that do well in your area, leaving a bit of wiggle-room as far as planting times.
  • By buying starts from a provider in your area, you are likely supporting local, organic farmers.


  • This method of gardening is quite costly… A single plant could cost upards of five dollars, depending on where you shop.
  • Varieties tend to be more limited at nurseries, and you may not find exactly what you want to grow.

Try buying these as starts:

  • Tomatoes
  • Rosemary
  • Bell Peppers
  • Strawberries

Once you’ve determined what you want to grow, don’t wait!  Now is the time to get those seeds and starts together to create your edible oasis.  Jump into this gardening season with confidence by checking out The Urban Bounty, the ultimate guide to growing food in the urban northeast.

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One thought on “The Difference Between Seeds and Starts – Sow What?

  1. AP says:

    Great article!

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