Why are some seeds said to be direct sow only

dowbright(z6 in Missouri)May 1, 2012

I was just reading a thread about a guy whose beans were being attacked, possibly by cutworms, or maybe rot from cool weather. Someone suggested starting them ahead of time.

I love this idea. I prefer to put in tiny plants rather than seeds, under some circumstances. But why do books and posts say "can't be transplanted?" My transplants do pretty well.

What is it that I don't know? I realize the roots of cucumbers, squash, etc. are very tender/brittle. And same for others. But it can be done. I grow in very tiny amounts.

What else is wrong about it? Does it weaken the plants? Thanks in advance for any wisdom. :) (I start lots under lights.)

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IME, in general, direct-sown plants are much hardier. This makes sense, because the seed doesn't germinate until temp/moisture conditions are about right and the seedling does not have to undergo the trauma of changing conditions from greenhouse coddling to outdoor roughing it.

The less attention a planting is likely to get the more reason to direct-seed. Or, put another way, transplanting is immensely more labor. So the question is whether the result is worth the labor. In most parts of NA, a crop like tomatoes, for example, cannot be produced without transplanting, so I would say if one wants garden tomatoes the labor is well worth it. I like my early zucchini, so to me starting some plants in the greenhouse is worth it. Bulbing onions are considered to be worth the extra labor by many growers. An advantage to transplanting a crop is the increased leverage over weeds because while the crop is in the greenhouse weeds are germinating in the beds and can be cultivated just before setting out the crop.

The reason many crops are not recommended for transplanting isn't so much because it can't be done but because the pay-off is low. Where many plants are needed, for example, like peas and beans, transplanting is not generally considered worthwhile. Root crops because the transplanting often significantly interrupts the rooting process.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 7:02AM
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Like you, I have found that with care, I can transplant just about anything, and I often take on challenging subjects in order to get ideal spacing. But I would not transplant beans because there is not a good reason to do so. No reason to rush into the season, because they won't grow until the soil is warm anyway.

About the only crops I break the rules on are fall crops of asian greens like bok choy, and rutabaga if I need to get them started in hot weather.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 8:14AM
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Concur; Most of these "rules" date from 40+ years back when all transplants were bare root. With todays technology, it is possible to transplant an undisturbed root ball. So there is virtually nothing that cannot be transplanted. Whether it is worth the effort is your call.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 9:32AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

It's not that it can't be done. Obviously it can. It would be better to say it shouldn't be done. Transplanting that is. For some things.

Like pnbrown said, in some cases transplanted plants are less hardy. If they survive all of the transplanting process itself, and often they don't, they may be stunted, have reduced production, be more prone to disease or pest attacks, etc. Most importantly, the act of transplanting affects the plants natural growth cycle and triggers the bloom-and-try-to-set-fruit cycle, often far too early.

In many cases one doesn't discover the problems with the transplant until long after is has been transplanted so time and space and work are wasted.

One easy way to prove to yourself the advantages of direct seeding is to just grow a transplant right next to a direct- seeded plant and see the differences. This is especially easy to do with members of the squash family.

Of course all the usual variables of zone, soil, timing, weather, and growing conditions provided can affect the process too. If, for example, I had northern Iowa soil, weather and growing conditions I'd be much more likely to use transplants for some vegetables than I am given what I have to work with here. :)


    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 9:33AM
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It was me that made the suggestion about starting ahead of time. I am a new gardener as this is just my second garden so take my suggestions with a grain of salt. But that being said I am fixing to start picking my green beans and that is why I did it. Maybe I won't get as big a yield that I might have by direct seeding but I think I can get a second planting in by doing it this way. I also hate the idea of having to thin out the plants later.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 9:52AM
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Certainly many root crops are probably too much of a pain/ chance of lower quality to bother. You would have to be very good/careful to even make it worth the bother with carrots and quick radishes.

Why bother with transplanting green beans either, any messing around with the roots could lead to problems and disease, and they sprout in the ground so easily in warm weather.

Now peas are can be transplated, even thou they do not transplant all that well, because it is important to get them growing before the heat.

I have given up on direct seeding of Lettuce, because I want to pick lettuce before June, since the quality is better.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 9:57AM
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How aggressive the roots are plays a role as well.

For example, I started some pumpkins in pots here last week simply because I was too lazy to go out and dig up a spot for them at the time, but still wanted to get them going.

A week later they had sprouted, had big cotys and even the start of true leaves. In a week from planting. Went out yesterday to put them in the ground and found the 4" starter pot already full of roots. If I had waited any longer there would have been problems.

So yeah, some crops grow large amounts of roots very quickly, so its often better to direct sow them simply because of that. But if you're careful and attentive, there is virtually nothing that cannot be transplanted.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 11:02AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Your climate is also important as to whether or not you need to transplant. In my climate squash and beans would not be able to germinate until almost June if direct sown because soil temps are too low. So I start them in the greenhouse and transplant. When I transplant I often direct sow some more seed to have a succession.

I also transplant brassicas and lettuces because we have such a bad snail/slug problem that emerging seedlings are mown down instantly. Plus I can get lettuce earlier that way.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 12:30PM
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It is partly to cover there own buttocks due to failure rate of certain items.
If it says do not transplant and one does, they have the ability to see did you read this?

My failure rate with transplant vines is very high.
My rate of thriving volunteers whose parent was rototilled under the year before is very high.
To the point of having to weed them out.

One must remember some plants go into shock easily, from weath and simply the difference between the planting medium and the soil they are going to grow in.

My best success rate with vines is if I transplant the vine into a much larger pot first, then after it is doing well in that transplant outside.
It takes awhile then before the roots out grow the medium it is in.

Corn hates being moved but in the times I absolutely have to, I move it in a root ball eight inches in diameter, or try to.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 1:49PM
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