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Seeds vs. seedlings : what is better?

The availability of readily grown seedlings has led to the dilemma of which one of the two, seeds or seedlings, is better. Truth is, they both have their pros and cons. The usage, however, depends on the situation or the need. For those of us still deciding on whether to start with seeds or seedlings have a look at some of the pros and cons for each below.

A seed is an embryonic plant encapsulated in a protective outer covering called a seed coat. Seeds can be grown in many ways; Small seeds must be placed on the surface of the seed-raising mix because if covered too thickly they might not germinate. For other seeds, itís recommended that they are planted at twice the depth of the thickness of the seed itself.

  • For crops, such as beans, that are quick to germinate, one may consider starting from seeds.
  • Seeds are much cheaper than seedlings.
  • For those of us who like choices, starting from seed offers one an option of choosing between different varieties available in the market. Seedlings confine the farmer to the variety used by their provider.
  • Planting the seed directly is riskier, since the seeds have to put up with hazards such as adverse weather patterns, like drought or flood, high wind (for open-field farming), pests, and weeds. In order to be successful, one has to ensure that the environment in which the seeds are growing in, is conducive.
  • The farmer also has to be prepared to thin the seedlings; that is, pulling out a few plants between the rows to make sure even spacing between the plants. Lack of spacing will result in crowded plants that will compete for light, water, and nutrients. Crowded plants have also been prone to diseases due to the lack of airflow.
  • Seeds generally take a little longer to grow than seedlings. Itís good to note that there are some crops whose germination rate is slower than most plants even if you plant them as seedlings. It is because of the growth rate of the two that leads to the second difference; seeds are cheaper as compared to seedlings.
A seedling is a young plant grown from a seed in a nursery.

  • Seedlings will give you a significant head start on the season, since their maturity rate will be shorter and will result in an earlier harvest.
  • On the other hand, most seedlings will take a minimum of 2 weeks to germinate.
  • Seedlings are more resistant to pests, because they are more mature and stronger when transplanted. Many pests love snacking on the tiny seedlings. Therefore, the risk of losing the plants is lower as compared to seeds.
  • Seedlings are definitely much more expensive to buy than raising your own from seed.
  • With seedlings one is restricted to the variety grown by the supplier.
  • Seedlings pose a threat of introducing weeds and/or diseases into your farm. Itís therefore important to get your seedlings from a certified company/producer to avoid such inconveniences.
All in all, the choice between the two, seeds or seedlings, will come down to the farmerís preference.

For more information:
Illuminium Greenhouses
M-Lab 3rd Floor, Bishop Magua Centre, opposite Uchumi Ngong road

Publication date: 2/17/2017



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