Garden Talk: Which veggie plants are better to start from seed

With such a short growing season here in Michigan, we always want to get a head start in the garden by transplanting already sizable vegetable plants. It’s a great idea, but I’ve found some vegetables do best planted right in the garden in their permanent spot.

There are a few categories of vegetables that can be started indoors and transplanted, but will be healthier eventually and last longer planted directly in the garden. The vine vegetables like cucumbers are one such vegetable. Squash, melons and pumpkins are also vegetables that do just as well planted right in the garden.

A good compromise is to buy and transplant one cucumber plant next week and plant the rest from seeds next week.

Remember- all of these vegetables I just talked about like at least 65-degree soil to germinate. They are the seeds that need the warmest soil to sprout. Through next Wednesday our two-inch soil temperature will be in the 50s and probably too cool for squash, melons, pumpkins and cucumbers to germinate.

Summer squash already started and at the correct size to transplant into your garden. (Mark Torregrossa |

Could you plant the cucumber or zucchini plant you can buy from your local greenhouse? Probably, but you’ll want to cover them on the cool nights in the 30s and 40s coming over the next week. These plants just don’t like chilly weather. They can go into an almost shocked, stunted condition if it gets too chilly.

Another condition to watch out for when buying these hot-loving vegetable plants- make sure they don’t already look pot-bound. I’ve found this leads to real disappointment in a month or two. You basically just want the seeds germinated and maybe one true leaf formed. The first two small leaves are called seed leaves. You want one leaf past that, and that leaf should look like the leaves of the growing plant.


Summer squash at the right size to transplant in your garden (Mark Torregrossa |

If you buy these small plants, you will basically get some ripe vegetables about a week sooner than planting right in the soil. If you plant the seeds when the soil has warmed up, the plants emerge quickly and grow quickly.

Two plants not normally started inside, but it pays off

I’ve found two of our favorite vegetables traditionally not started inside and transplanted to benefit from an early start. Sweet corn and green beans can be started in plastic flats like you would get your plants in at a greenhouse. It’s a little late to do this now, unless you did it today. But for future seasons, try starting sweet corn in mid-April and plant out in garden mid-May. Remember- for sweet corn ears to fill out, they need to pollinate properly. You need at least a flat of sweet corn, usually 48 plants, to get a good pollination. Don’t plant them in one row. Plant the early started corn in four shorter rows. This will give you the earliest sweet corn in the neighborhood. You can also do this with some green beans.