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vegetables & herbs you really ought to grow from seed

People are talking about the ease of locating plants to transplant rather than direct seed.

I want to make the case that there are some things that are easier and make lots more sense to grow from seed. Sure, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers make sense to buy plants if you don't want to start indoors earlier, and they produce in one cycle -- one plant, all season. Period.

Other vegetables and herbs make much more sense to direct seed -- they're just too easy, some don't like to be transplanted, and some only last part of the season and will need to be reseeded (or replanted when the season is late and there are none left!) Also, some things you just can't get at the market, such as zucchini blossoms!

Lettuce. You can buy a 6-pack but most it's easier to seed a row. They come up in a few days if you water them (they'll need that), then you pull some out to give them space, and voila! Your lettuce crop.

Arugula, spinach -- just too easy, same as lettuce, and you can put in now in northern climes where I am.

Mizuna -- a great tasty peppery green for salads and/or cooking.

Cilantro -- needs to be reseeded every few weeks because it goes to seed.

Dill -- ditto

Zucchini. No one will say they lack a green thumb once they stick 4 seeds in the ground and up come the sprouting plants in a few days. Also, the variety you can get by seeds is so much greater -- and tastier -- than the standard commercial variety. Why not plant a delicious Italian variety that bears a lot of male blossoms, and then stuff and fry them. Mmm good!

Cucumber -- easy as zucchini. And they resent transplanting.

Swiss chard
easy. Plant a row and you'll have garden fresh greens all season.

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  1. Don't forget radishes...they grow like weeds. Just drop some seeds and water. Sow every few weeks for a continual supply through the spring.

    Others that direct sow well: peas, beets, beans, and cole crops

    1. Carrots - they definitely need to be direct seeded. Mix those teeny seeds in with some sand and sprinkle a line across the garden. Less thinning required and you can see exactly where they are.
      Nasturtium - they direct sow really well and the leaves are lovely in a salad, peppery like Mizuna.

      I'd say the benefits of planting your own seeds (either by direct sowing or growing your own transplants) is it keeps the cost down significantly and you can get a hold of a larger range of varieties.

      1. Beets - plant in the mid-Atlantic at the same time as radishes and carrots. We plant Golden Beets and a red variety
        Beans- both snap beans and asian long beans, beans seem to grow with little or no effort and we have a long lasting crop.
        Parsnips - really! We plant in the early spring and harvet after the Fall frost
        Bok Choy - easy to grow and saves a trip to the Asian market. Looking forward to stir fried baby bok choy in a few weeks

        Our current Spring garden - all from seed - carrots, lettuce (butter, romaine and red leaf mix), parsnips, mizuna, bok choy, radishes (white, red and pink), beets (red and golden), onions (red and white), and cilantro

        1. peas, beans, arugula. and sunflowers...

          1. I totally agree, but in FL with it already in the 80's, sometimes the small tender seedlings suffer. I always start mine in small seedling pots and then transplant, just much easier I have found. Even in winter you can get mid 80's and bright sun which can be hard for little seedlings unless proper coverings. But agreed seeds are better for somethings but climate down here and even further south can be hard on them, just as cold nights can also be hard on small seedlings.

            1. i have just seeded my first garden with arugula and rutabega. I love the idea of harvesting my rutabegas in december (NYC)...I will let you know if I am successful.

              1. Has anyone tried direct seeding in containers? My soil is really lousy and I don't think I'm up to making raised beds this year, so I have a container garden of herbs, mostly from purchased plants, although I am trying a few small seeded pots. Starting seedlings indoors is out of the question - no light to speak of. I have no green thumb and generally don't do a lot of fussing over my plants, but I'd love to harvest little radishes and kohlrabi from my garden. Is it worth trying (and inexpensive) in a trough with good soil? Any other suggestions for easy-to-grow container seeds? Thank you!

                5 Replies
                1. re: Kinnexa

                  I have all containers and have been successful with all herbs, cucumbers, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, pole beans and cucumbers. Sunflowers,alyssum, morning glories (soak the night before), marigolds and dianthus (sp.) Testing more this year. It doesn't hurt to try.

                  1. re: doughreme

                    has anyone done strawberries from seed successfully?

                    btw, thanks for the tip on the cilantro and dill, i did not reseed last year, and was sad when my season ended so early!

                    1. re: cleopatra999

                      I have tried some Yellow Wonder strawberries from seed this year and they take absolutely forever! Some will sprout tiny leaves within a few days, some a few weeks and from that point on, it's iffy. I started about a dozen seeds and only has succeeded into something I was able to transplant outside. I've got one more on it's way(indoors still) and 6 more seeds waiting to sprout. Fingers crossed!

                      BTW, I still think it will be worth all the trouble just to see even one piece of fruit...

                      1. re: cleopatra999

                        I grew alpine strawberries from seed. They were tiny, tiny seeds, but they germinated and grew well. They're pretty plants and if they're happy they'll self sow. I find them easier than regular strawberries, though of course they're smaller.

                      2. re: doughreme

                        I used to grow cucumbers in large pots and a half whiskey barrel with a trellis. Last year the cukes did poorly. I think the constant rain washed the nutrients out of the soil. I saw a pot of cukes in someone else's garden that looked as bad as mine but they also had some cukes growing in the ground that looked terrific. Last year I also grew zucchini in a large pot. I have been growing different varieties of basil in different pots. Somewhere I saw photos of someone growing corn in little pots. Not sure if it was really successful. (One stalk per pot.) It's certainly inexpensive to give radishes and kohlrabi a try as long as your pot is deep enough.

                    2. How do you deter critters from eating your seeds? I lost most of my seed-sowed vegetables last year, but the purchased transplants survived. I was so disappointed. I don't really want to have to deal with growing my own plants in containers and transplanting them later... too lazy for that!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: chemchef

                        are you sure someone ate your seeds? or perhaps you didn't keep them "moist under germination"??
                        The critter threat for me is once the seeds germinate. Out in the lawn (or deer grounds), unfenced the tender shoots were a gourmet meal for critters.

                        1. re: chemchef

                          Birds are always hanging out while I'm sowing seeds, and I just know they're taking notes. Yet they're good to have around, so I just ask them nicely to leave my stuff alone and cover the seeded area with a not-too-thick layer of hay-mulch stuff.

                          I don't know if it works better as a cover (making the seeds harder to get to, plus providing the distraction of "ooh - this'll work great in my nest" with regard to the hay) or a road map (marking out exactly where the seeds are), but I have a decent success rate - maybe 70%? - with it. And where stuff does come up, it's usually bunched, so I can thin the crop, replant and end up with a decent row most of the time.

                          I haven't had a mouse or vole seed issue, though they definitely took up residence in our plot last year.