Seedlings, which have already sprouted a few leaves, will start producing food more quickly than seeds, but some plants like beans, squash, and cucumbers won't flourish when you transplant them to your garden and are best planted using seeds. Seeds that are older than a year may not germinate, so check the packet for a use-by date.
When shopping for seeds, consider the following:
* PLANT THE BEST Seed quality affects the taste and quantity of food you get. Hybrids—bred for thicker skin or more uniform fruits—may not be as flavorful as naturally occurring heirlooms but are often easier to grow.
* PROTECT TRADITIONAL SPECIES To help preserve threatened species, plant only traditional and heirloom seed varieties from companies that preserve them, like Seeds of Change (seedsofchange.com).
* GO ORGANIC If you want to grow organic vegetables, be sure to buy seeds that haven't been treated with chemical insecticides and fungicides. Read the label carefully or consult a gardening expert.