Which seeds should I plant right in the ground?

In a previous post I talked about how new vegetable gardeners can feel pressured to start their plants inside, from seeds, when really, they would be much better off buying baby plants (seedlings) from the nursery. This is true for plants that need to be started ahead of time, inside, in order to reach maturity in our length of growing season (e.g. tomatoes and peppers).

But there are a few plants that are  better to grow from seed planted directly into your garden (this is called “direct seeding”) than by starting with transplants. In fact, some plants are almost impossible to grow successfully if you buy them as seedlings and then try to transplant them into your garden beds.

But this doesn’t stop some garden centres from trying to sell them. The plant that I see garden centres most often foisting on unsuspecting newbies is carrots. Every time I see a flat of carrot seedlings at the nursery it makes me angry (yes, I will admit that plant shopping is an emotional experience for me). You see, carrots grow below the ground, with a long straight skinny taproot (the part that eventually turns orange, that you eat). Transplanting a baby plant with a taproot is delicate work—it’s very easy to accidentally break off the root. Almost impossible not to, in fact. I’ve heard of people managing to do it, but they’re truly the exception, not the rule. Another reason not to buy carrots as seedlings is that carrot seeds germinate fairly quickly and the plants easily mature within the average growing season. There’s just no reason to “start them early indoors”. As far as I can tell, the only reason to sell carrot seedlings in cell packs is so that someone can make a quick buck on new gardeners that don’t yet know any better.

Other plants that are better off being sown directly are radishes and beets. Wait until the ground in your garden warms up a bit in spring, pop the seeds in, and then watch them grow. Transplanting them from the seedling stage into the ground is really more difficult than direct seeding them.

Follow the instructions on the seed packet for when to plant, how deep, and how far apart. It’s different for each kind of seed.


Peas, beans, corn, and sunflowers are also good plants to grow by direct seeding. They’re not necessarily difficult to transplant, but since they’re quite easy to grow from seeds planted right in the garden that’s the better route to go as it’s a lot more cost effective. If you have a real problem with slugs eating your baby bean plants there can be some benefit to starting your bean plants indoors first, but that’s the only case I can see for doing so.



This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start. Do you have any seeds you like to plant right into your garden? Or have you defied the odds and managed to successfully transplant some tap-rooted seedlings into your garden? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.


  1. Garth Wunsch on April 24, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    What you say about carrots is absolutely true. It’s a cash grab. Should be a law against it.

    However, I do successfully transplant beets, but not beets that I have started indoors. I invariably have to thin my beets once they are a couple of inches tall. Rather than compost them, I often transplant them into a bit of vacant space (if I can find any). If they grow, and they usually do, great. If they croak, too bad. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I guess I should add that I’ve been gardening for over sixty years, so I suppose that ups the odds of a successful transplant – something like an experienced heart surgeon… practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does improve the odds of patient survival.

    BTW, you are creating an excellent blog that will really help grading newbies.

    • Jennifer on May 3, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Yes, beets are certainly another tricky one. I saw cell packs of them for sale this morning, and there was no proof of experience required for purchase!

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