If you’re new to gardening, you might be wondering whether you should start with seeds, or seedlings, and what the difference is.

Rather than explain it in each post, I’ve created this one to help you make your decisions.

Why sow seeds when I can plant seedlings?

You totally should plant seedlings! If you only want/need a few plants or have limited space then you don’t need 100 tomato seeds, you need a few tomato plants. If you’re looking at a pack of seeds and it says to “transplant” this plant, then you can totally just buy the seedlings if you’d rather. But some plants – like peas, corn, and root veges – grow better when you plant the seed directly into the garden (or container). If you’re reading a seed packet and it says “direct sow”, seeds are always the best way to go.

Advantages of seeds

The biggest advantage with growing from seed is the range of what you can grow. There were 57 different varieties of tomato listed in the Kings Seeds catalogue this year. There is an astonishing range of weird and wonderful things available through TradeMe and Facebook groups too. Seeds are cheaper as well. A pack of seed is usually a similar price to a single seedling, but is capable of growing hundreds more plants.  A pack of seeds will generally keep its viability for a few years, meaning they become economical over time if you know how to store and grow them. If you eat a lot of a particular plant (broccoli and lettuce are popular in our house), seeds work out considerably cheaper over a few seasons. You can make your money back by raising seeds to seedling stages and selling them to your mates for their gardens. I’ve found Facebook to be a really great place to sell my extra seedlings. Or you could raise tomatoes while your mate raises lettuces, then swap half the seedlings. It’s a good skill to have if you have the time and space to learn.

Advantages of seedlings

Seedlings will grow faster than seeds, and involve a lot less work. You’re also more likely to experience good results. If you choose healthy-looking seedlings, plant them into decent soil and look after them, you’ll probably get food. They’re better for beginners.

Where to get seeds

I’ve used, grown, and had positive results with the seeds from Kings Seeds, Egmont Seeds, Koanga Institute, and Setha’s Seeds. The TradeMe seed category is worth a look, but results can be a little variable. Garden centers, hardware stores, and The Warehouse also sell seeds.

Where to get seedlings

I’ve heard good things about Awapuni nurseries – you can order online and have seedlings delivered. Garden centers usually have the best range, but you can also pick up seedlings at hardware stores, The Warehouse, and local markets.

More sowing guides

I've created a few sowing and growing guides like this one for different plants and situations. If this one hasn't answered your question, maybe one of these will: