Sow under shelter or in the ground?

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One of the first questions we ask ourselves when we start in the kitchen garden is this: Should we sow under shelter or in the ground ? Prepare your seedlings indoors , or wait patiently for the best days to get started? Sow bucket or bowl ? We explain everything from definitions to techniques , through the advantages and disadvantages of each method … not to mention our little tips !

Sow in the ground, also called “direct seeding”

For which vegetables?

  • Most of the bulbs ( garlic , onions , shallots …), root vegetables ( radishes , carrots , turnips , beets ), but also spinach and peas are sown in the ground .
  • The case of tomatoes is a little apart: most gardeners sow under shelter, indoors, to start earlier and have fruits early in the season. We can also sow in the ground later, after the last frosts, for a harvest late . In some cases – depending on the variety and region – plants planted in the ground may catch seedlings under cover! For more information on growing tomatoes , click on this link!
  • On the other hand, for seeds that need a lot of heat – such as pepper or aubergine – sowing will be preferred under shelter, especially in colder regions.

Advantages and disadvantages

No-till does not require equipment, requires less work , especially monitoring , and you will not have to transplant your plants.

On the other hand, it is often necessary to prepare the soil finely while transplanted plants will be satisfied with a coarser soil.

Our advices

The seedlings sown outdoors are fragile – and often the target of slugs and other useful garden insects – but voracious and unwilling to share with you! You can protect them punctually, the first weeks with cut bottles – it’s ugly but it works! But the best protection is to sow, a few days before, companion plants that will be there when the slugs arrive empty stomach: so they will attack less to your seedlings.

Sow under shelter

In reality, there is not one, but two main methods of sowing under shelter! We sow, mainly depending on the type of vegetables, either in bucket or terrine .

Sowing in a bucket

bucket is a pot, often plastic, 5 to 10 centimeters in diameter. Vegetables are usually sown in pans  : tomato , eggplant , pepper , cucumber , zucchini , pumpkin , melon ! In most cases, we do not transplant: the plants will wait in their bucket, nicely, time to be planted, usually after the last freezes .

Sowing in terrine

terrine is a fairly large and shallow container , in which one sows a large number of seeds of the same vegetable. This technique is used for salads, lettuce , cabbage and leeks .

Advantages and disadvantages

  • A terrine requires less soil than individual buckets, and this technique allows for more robust plants , especially for cabbages.
  • It will be necessary to monitor the plants every day, because these seeds germinate quickly and the plants are ready to transplant after a few days.
  • You have to do an intermediate transplant in a bucket – it’s more work!

Our advices

Do not start too early , at the risk of seeing your seedlings spinning – click on the link to find out more. Simply calculate the number of days before planting – depending on your area. For most varieties of tomatoes, 6 weeks of growing in pots, and 2 weeks during which you will take them out during the day to get them warm at night, it is already quite good: do not sow more than 8 weeks before planned laying . For example, we in the North, we sow the first tomatoes … in mid-March!

Dr. Kimberly Seltzer

Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley Research Assistant, MIT

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