That is the question.
Garden planning includes planting schedules, and that means knowing what to start ahead indoors, and what to seed directly into the ground outdoors. It depends on your climate.
A friend of mine in Alabama plants tomato seeds right in the ground. The season is long, and there’s plenty of moisture. But that is unheard of in our Zone 5! Tomatoes need to be started inside to get a jump on the short season.
Any plant that needs a long growing season to produce fruit or flowers needs to be started indoors. Short season plants that you want a multiple harvest from should also be started ahead.
Most annual flowers – Sweet Peas and Nasturtiums, for instance, do not handle transplanting very well. (photo)
Most root crops do better seeded right into a prepared bed outside, but there are a few others, too.
Some crops can be planted both ways successfully. Like I said, if you want multiple harvests, do succession plantings. Start seed indoors for early planting and harvest, and direct seed for harvest later in the season. Anything that can be harvested in 50 or 60 days can be seeded either way.
Swiss Chard (photo)
Of course, nothing in the gardening world is exempt from experimentation. I worked on a 350 acre farm. In spring, Bob, the owner, was starting corn in flats. I’d never seen this before. Bob’s family had run this farm for generations. It wasn’t like he had no experience!
‘Bob? (pause) What are you doing?’
‘Starting corn!’ Like that was totally normal.
‘I want to see if I can have the earliest corn this year at the County Fair.’
‘It’s all an experiment,’ he said with a mostly straight face.
It didn’t make a difference, because of the way corn grows, but he had to find out. We all found out!
‘It’s all an experiment.’ I have taken those words with me the last 34 years. Don’t be afraid to experiment in your garden! Keep good notes on what works and what doesn’t, and try a different experiment next year.