Direct Sowing vs. Starting Seeds Indoors

by Fern on January 20, 2009

in Fruits & Vegetables,Herbs,Winter Gardening

If you’re a container gardener, is it better to sow seeds directly in your pots or planters, or is it better to start the seeds in starter pots indoors? To be honest, there isn’t one right answer. Different strokes for different folks and all that good stuff. Even the same gardener may decide that different seeds call for different approaches. Below you’ll find some pros and cons for each way of doing things. Be sure to throw in your two cents about direct sowing versus seed starting!


Best for:

  • Seedlings that don’t transplant well, like radishes, carrots, beets, poppies or morning glories (just to name a few).
  • Seeds that are excruciatingly tiny. They’re ripe for easy direct sowing techniques.
  • For pots full of the same plant.
  • Gardeners that prefer less fuss or who don’t have indoor space/equipment for seed starting.

Not so great when:

  • You want to design a pot in a specific way with specific plants in specific spots.
  • You have a short growing season and you want to grow a plant that needs a long time to develop or that is not cold hardy.
  • You’re having a tough time with pests (small seedlings are less able to recover from being partially eaten or otherwise attacked).


Best for:

  • Plants that don’t mind having their roots disturbed during transplanting.
  • Containers that you have a multi-plant plan for (it’s easier to design a pot with more mature plants in than it is to work with direct sown seedlings already in the pot).
  • Gardeners that enjoy doing more planning.
  • People who have space inside and the appropriate amount of light.
  • Gardeners with a short growing season.

Not so great when:

  • Your indoor space is limited and/or you don’t have enough light.
  • You have cats or dogs and no way to keep them away from your indoor growing area.
  • You’re more of a seat-of-your-pants type of gardener.
  • You have a long growing season and mild winters.
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