Pre Growing Or Direct Seeding? (Which Is Better)

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:29 pm

In spring we hobby gardeners have our hands full: Bed preparations, maintenance work and the first sowings are on the agenda. To make the most of the gardening year, it is crucial that the young plants are ready at the right time. When it comes to growing young plants, you are spoilt for choice: do you want to sow directly in the bed or do you prefer to grow your plants indoors? To help you decide, here’s everything you need to know about the two sowing methods and which plants are suitable in each case.

  • At a glance
  • Earlier sowing possible
  • Protection of young plants from slugs & competition from wild herbs
  • More economical use of seeds
  • Growing conditions are easier to influence

Especially slow-growing and heat-loving plants, e.g., cucurbits and nightshades.

  • Direct seeding
  • Plants become more robust
  • Roots are not damaged by transplanting
  • The connection between the young plant and the soil is maintained

Pre Growing Or Direct Seeding? (Which Is Better)

Especially plants with sensitive roots, e.g. root vegetables like carrots, beet and radishes. In principle, however, any vegetable can be sown directly in beds.

Advantages of preplanting

If you pre-grow your plants in a warm house, you can start sowing before the last frosts. In a warm place, your tender seedlings will be protected from the cold and will not be damaged. By sowing early, you can also start harvesting earlier.
The protective four walls will not only protect your seedlings from the cold, but also from pests and wild weeds. In the unprotected vegetable patch, young plants are often a tasty morsel for slugs and could also be quickly overgrown by wild herbs. As soon as your plants are bigger, they will be better able to stand up to other plants and establish themselves in the vegetable patch.
When you preplant, you can use your seeds much more sparingly. It can’t blow away, wash away or be snatched by birds. In addition, you do not sow generously in rows, but selectively in seed trays or pots.
You can influence the different growing conditions when pre-cultivating indoors. For example, you can use special growing soil that is relatively lean. This promotes the root development of the young plants, as they have to open up more space in their search for nutrients. In addition, the temperature in the house is relatively constant, which is especially important for plants with a high germination temperature.

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Suitable plants to grow in advance

Especially for slow-growing and heat-loving plants, it is worthwhile to grow them in advance indoors. They require a relatively high germination temperature and can make good use of the extended growth period. These include, for example, the nightshade (tomato, eggplant, bell pepper, etc.) and cucurbits (zucchini, cucumber, melon, etc.). Several types of cabbage (head cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, etc.) also benefit from being sown indoors earlier, as they grow relatively slowly. Once it’s warm enough outside, they can be planted in the bed to take full advantage of the summer!

Pre Growing Or Direct Seeding? (Which Is Better)

Here’s what you should keep in mind when pre-growing

When pre-cultivating in a protected space, the plants may become very weak due to lack of stimuli. For example, if they do not get enough light, they grow unnecessarily in height and then later with the unstable shoot can not carry their leaves. So be sure to provide enough light! If you have only few bright places available, you can also use special UV lamps for support.

When choosing a location, you should also make sure that it is not too warm. In this case, the motto “a lot helps a lot” does not apply. The plants should not stand on the heater, here the soil would dry out too quickly. A bright place on the windowsill at moderate room temperature is quite sufficient for growing!

This brings us directly to the next and very important point: Sufficient moisture. Especially in the germination and early development phase, you should always ensure sufficient moisture. If the soil dries out again and again, the seeds cannot germinate properly. In addition, lack of water can very quickly cost a tender young plant its life.
Most seed packets indicate the optimal time for sowing indoors and outdoors. For most plants, you can start growing indoors in early to mid-March, so the plants can be planted outdoors after the Ice Saints in mid-May. If you don’t have time to grow your vegetable plants yourself this year, you can of course always buy young plants from the market, the gardener or the garden center.

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Advantages of direct seeding

Directly sown plants are usually more robust, they are hardened by a wide variety of environmental influences. For example, the wind ensures that the plants grow more stably due to the constant stimulus. The robust seedlings are also less susceptible to pests (such as aphids) in comparison, they just must not fall victim to slugs.

What also speaks in favor of direct seeding is the stress factor that arises when transplanting. Transplanting always means stress for plants! A change of location is actually only intended for the seed in nature. It is carried away by animals or the wind to germinate in another place. Once the seed sprouts and takes root, it has no reason to move, because the growing conditions seem suitable. Thus, the change of location occurs only through human intervention and not only damages the roots, but also uproots the young plant from its familiar environment.
A diverse flora of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms lives in the soil.

This flora can support seed germination. When the seed sprouts, it automatically links up with the complex network in the soil. If one now wants to place the plant in a different location, these connections are severed. The plant must then re-establish such connections in its new location in order to grow well. You’ve probably observed this before when planting young plants. At first the plants seem out of place, but after a few days you notice how they seem to connect with their surroundings and become stronger. Some plants manage to make new connections, but others are too weakened and die.

Suitable plants for direct seeding

There are plants that should definitely be direct seeded, as they have very delicate roots. Transplanting would damage the roots and thus extremely weaken the plant. These include, above all, various root vegetables such as carrots, beet and radishes. But beans and peas also thrive better when sown directly into the bed.

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This is because they form a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil. Legumes can only form this bond later when they are grown in advance. For lettuce, preplanting is generally possible, but directly seeded lettuce does not tend to bolt as much. In general, most crops are suitable for direct seeding into the bed. Only slow-growing plants and those with a high germination temperature are worth growing indoors.

What you should bear in mind when direct sowing

  • Even with direct seeding, sufficient moisture is indispensable during the germination phase! So make sure that your fresh seeds never dry out.
  • If you want to sow directly into the bed despite cooler temperatures, you can use special garden fleece. The fleece has an insulating function and can create a favorable microclimate for germination. After sowing, you should regularly check whether germination has already begun and remove the fleece in time so that the young plants can develop properly.
  • To minimize seed loss, you should press the seeds properly. This is especially important for light sprouts (e.g. lettuce), as the seeds are not covered with soil but placed openly on the soil. Here, additional bird netting can be helpful so that your seeds survive at all until germination and are not nibbled.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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