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Best Seeds for Direct Sowing

Jump to RecipeGarden bed with lettuce and other vegetables

Starting plants from seed can be great, but starting them indoors can be tedious and require a lot of equipment. That’s why my favorite seeds are the ones you can start directly outside in your garden.

Starting vegetables and flowers from seed have many benefits. You have a wider range of options for what to grow so you don’t have to rely on plants you can find at a garden center. It is less waste. Since you only have to buy a packet of seeds you don’t end up with extra plastic containers. And most important, it’s more fun! Seeing a plant grow from a small seed is so rewarding.

What is direct sowing?

Direct sowing is planting seeds directly in your garden. When you direct sow, you are placing the seed where you ultimately want the plant to grow.

The alternative is transplanting. This is when the seed is started inside or in a greenhouse. It is grown to a small plant and then you plant it out in your garden once the temperature is ideal for that particular plant.

You can grow your own transplants or you can buy them from a garden center or farmers market. I have a whole post about growing from seeds that talks more about transplanting. You can find here: How to Start Plants from Seed.

How do you direct sow your seeds?

To direct sow your seeds, you want to look at the back of you seed packet for instructions. Most seeds will say to plant 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep.

The key to getting most plants to germinate is keeping the seeds wet. Once the seed is watered it will start the germination process. If it dries out before it germinates then it will die off. So, you want to make sure to keep your seeds watered. Depending on how hot your climate is you may need to do this once or twice a day.

Make sure to check your seed packet for growing information or google the type of seed you are planting. Many plants have specific starting requirements that may differ from what I shared above.

Why should you direct sow your seeds?

Some seeds actually prefer being planted outside so that their roots don’t get disturbed in the transplant process. These plants include root vegetables like onions and carrots. Others quickly germinate so it makes them a great direct sowing seed. Vegetables like radishes and lettuces germinate fairly quickly.

Direct sowing means that you don’t need to find space in your house to start seeds. This is a huge plus for me. Finding enough space for containers, shelves, and grow lights can be difficult. Planting seeds directly outside means less supplies and space taken up in my house.

Another reason I love direct sowing is that your plants adapt to the environment quickly. Sometimes when you start seed indoors their stems can be weak. Once you but them outside, the wind and rain can kill the plant. When you start the plant outside, it grows with the stress of the environment. I have found this to create stronger plants.

Is direct sowing better?

Not necessarily. Depending on your growing season and what you are planting, transplanting might be a better option for you. If you have a short growing season you may not have enough time for a plant to fully mature. In this case, I would suggest starting the seed indoors to give it that extra time it needs. If you don’t know how long your growing season is, Google your zipcode and growing season.

Best Vegetables to Direct Seed

a person holding a bunch of radishes

Squash - I personally like starting zucchini from seed. They typically have a 45-50 day maturity time. Once the weather gets warm, these plants grow very quickly

Carrots - Carrots are a plant that don’t like to be disturbed, so planting them and letting them grow without moving their roots is ideal.

Radish - I don’t eat a ton of radishes, but they are one of my favorite things to grow. They only take about 30 days from planting the seed to get fruit from them.

Cucumbers - Make sure you plant these seeds next to a trellis. That way they can start growing right as they emerge.

Lettuce - Most lettuces are quick to grow and they are great filler plants. I love to grow lettuce in spring and fall when the weather is a little cooler and I’m not quite ready for warm weather plants.

Peas - I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have had trouble transplanting peas. Last year, I directly sowed them and I had much better luck. These are another plant I would suggest planting next to a trellis so they can start growing up as soon as the leaves start to form.

Spinach - Spinach is a great plant to grow from seed because you can start it much earlier than other plants. You can typically plant spinach seeds 4-6 weeks before your last spring frost. I use spinach at the baby leaf stage so I have food from the garden fairly early.

Best Flowers to Direct Seed

a large field of zinnias

Zinnias - These are by far my favorite flowers to grow from seed. I love throwing them in my raised beds after I have pulled out my garlic. In the middle of summer, they germinate so quickly.

Marigolds - I have a spot in my garden specifically for marigold. I throw out a bunch of seed at the beginning of May and I typically get a good show in August-October. If you want to have flowers earlier, I would suggest starting these from plant starts. Marigold are typically easy to find at any garden center.

Cosmos - I plant seeds out after the danger of frost has passed. Cosmos are fairly quick to germinate. You should see a little sprout in about a week. Some cosmos grow very large so make sure to plant them next to a trellis or fence.

Sunflowers - This classic summer flower is a perfect one to plant from seed outside. Just make sure you have enough space for them. You can check the back of you seed packet to know how large that variety will get.

What not to direct seed?

Peppers - Peppers often need a warm climate to germinate. In my area, Zone 6, I would need to wait until well after the last frost day to start the seeds outdoors. This wouldn’t give the plant enough time to fruit. For peppers, I either start seeds indoors or just buy plant starts at the farmers market or plant nursery.

Tomatoes - Growing tomatoes from seed is difficult for the same reasons as I stated above for peppers. They are a little easier than peppers to grow from direct seeding, but I still don’t think you get the amount of production as you would starting from a transplant.

Others - Celery, Broccoli, and Cauliflower

Where should you buy your seeds?

You can buy your seeds at any local plant nursery or at the many online shops. A few of my favorites are Botanical Interest, Johnny Seed Company and Floret Flower. I go more in depth on where to buy your seeds and how to grow them in this post: How to Start Plants from Seed

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