To plant a 6-pack or to direct sow…that is the question

seedling

I was at our local garden center the other day with a gardening friend, Sue. We marveled over the 4” double impatiens, “ooohed” and “aaahed” at the hanging basket of fuchsias that looked like dancing ballerinas, and made jokes about the extensive, but wonderful, choices of hot peppers.

As we neared the back of the greenhouse, we came to the area filled with 6-packs. Now, before I start ranting, I must disclose that I had more than a couple of flats of 6-packs on my cart before the days end, but there were things I would not buy in a 6-pack, as there are many herbs, veggies, and flowers that just don’t transplant well. When Sue picked up a 6-pack of parsley, she didn’t realize she was about to receive a lecture. She is a good gardener and sows seed often, so I was surprised by her choice. Parsley is one example of a plant that doesn’t transplant well. Parsley grown in a warm greenhouse, and then transplanted into a cool garden can often go into shock and bolt. The radical change in temperature makes the plant think it is fall and should focus its energy into seed production instead of leaf production. Parsley is a cool season herb that prefers to germinate in cool soil, and then grow in warm soil. It really does best sown directly in the ground in early spring.

But explaining all this to Sue just got me going. I noticed 6-packs of carrots, lettuce, fennel, squash, corn, and radishes! All of those vegetables are so easy to direct sow, and do so much better sown directly in the ground. Transplanted seedlings go through a period of adjustment, which can also lengthen the time it takes them to reach bloom or harvest.  Some crops are so quick; the transplant shock really slows things down. Some plants have a long taproot that just gets tangled up in a container, and therefore, won’t transplant well. Direct seeding is not only easier and better in many cases; it is cheaper! There are things like perennial flowers, tomatoes and peppers that I like to start indoors to get a jump on my area’s short season, then transplant them out into their final garden home. It is important to understand which crops have an advantage being transplanted versus direct sown, in order to avoid slow, weak, or poor yielding plants.  I explained to Sue that I worry about beginning gardeners that may use these 6-packs, then give up when they are not successful. I ranted for a fair amount of time about the pitfalls for new gardeners, when Sue reminded me of the resilient and positive spirit of gardeners. “It’s all trial and error. Gardeners never give up. We learn and we grow and then we plan next year’s garden.” She’s right. But just in case, here is a list to consider:

Plants that perform better when directly sown are usually faster crops; ones that do not like their roots disturbed, and all root crops.

Arugula
Basil
Beans
Borage
Cilantro
Chervil
Corn
Cress
Cucumber
Dill
Fennel
Lettuce
Melon
Peas
Parsley
Pumpkin
Root crops (beets, carrots, radish, rutabaga, turnip, etc.)
Spinach
Squash (summer and winter)
Watermelon

Bachelor’s buttons
Calendula
Cardinal Climber
China Aster
Cosmos
Cypress Vine
Hollyhock
Larkspur
Love-in-a-Mist
Moonflower
Morning Glory
Nasturtium
Poppy
Sunflowers
Sweet Pea
Zinnia


Posted on: June 12th, 2015 by Judy 5 Comments