Seeds vs. transplants

woman planting seeds in pots filled with dirt on a table, choosing seeds vs transplants for her climate victory garden

There are pros and cons to consider when choosing between starting your garden with seeds or transplants (also known as planting seedlings).



This option is easier and quicker than starting from seed, because you’re buying a seedling that’s already several weeks old. It’s past its most vulnerable stage and has been given the resources it needs to grow into a healthy mature plant. Because of this, it’s also more expensive to buy seedlings.

You can find seedlings at your local nursery. Quality may be an issue, so check closely for pests and signs of stress like wilting or damaged leaves. Ask the vendor if chemical pesticides or fertilizers were used on the plants; it’s always best for your health and the climate to buy organic when possible. Support local farms and small green businesses when you can.



Starting from seed saves you money and often offers more diversity than what’s available at the plant nursery. You can find seeds at your local garden store or in one of many free seed catalogs. Choose organic and as local as possible for the most climate- and planet-friendly options. Consider buying seeds from local farms or sourcing from local seed libraries for seeds that are adapted to your specific area.

Growing from seed is more challenging and time consuming than buying seedlings. There’s more potential for issues but also more opportunities for experimentation and learning. In addition to seeds, you’ll need soil, containers for growing in, and in some cases lights and heating pads. Some seeds need to be planted directly outdoors, while others need to be started indoors. This information can be found on the back of your seed packets and our resource on how to plant seeds. During germination, seeds need to be watered at least twice a day and the soil should remain moist—a demand that can be tough to meet if you’re not at home a lot during this phase.

If you want to try growing from seeds for the first time, you might want to pick something that’s easier to grow, like lettuce and other leafy vegetables, or sunflowers.


Transplants and seeds

For many gardeners, a combination of growing from seed and buying transplanting is the best option. If you try to start from seed and don’t succeed, you can often find transplants to replace them, even if late in the spring. Plant sales are great ways to support local farms and organizations, and help you diversify your garden. For both seeds and transplants, source is incredibly important. Choose companies that are committed to non-GMO, chemical-free, organic, sustainable, and/or responsible growing.