As the snow melts away and the weather warms up, it can only mean that planting time is just around the corner. Or, depending on where you live, it’s here already. Either way, many of us will be heading to our local garden centers and nurseries to purchase seedlings for this year’s garden. But before you head out, here are a few things to look for so you get the best plants available.
The pandemic has brought the “Shop Local” mantra to the front of many people’s minds these days. And it’s a great thing to keep in mind when shopping for plants as well. With local shops, you’re often more likely to find plants and seedlings that are best suited for your specific environment and are in season. They might also have a more exciting and unique variety of plants to choose from than the standard-issue stuff the bigger chains tend to stock.
Seedlings or Seeds
I know some people might feel like it’s cheating, or not as authentic, to plant seedlings instead of growing everything from seed. Well, to that, I say poppycock and hogwash. You should feel no shame going the seedling route; do it with pride. However, I will say that some vegetables don’t fare as well when transplanted. Carrots, radishes, and turnips are a few of the veggies that are best started from seed. Squash also despises being transplanted.
Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better
While our eyes are drawn to the bigger and taller plants of the bunch, those aren’t necessarily the best choice. Being the taller ones of the group could indicate that the conditions they were grown in had them fighting for sunlight. Which, in turn, will have left them tall but weak and more prone to things like transplant shock.
Look and Touch
This one is the plant shopping equivalent of squeezing, tapping, and examining fruits and veggies at the grocery store. Take a minute and look for any obvious warning signs that the plant isn’t as healthy as we would like it to be. Look for wilting or yellowing leaves. Inspect the stem and leaves for signs of disease and pests, such as holes in the leaves, black spots, and mushy or sticky areas.
Check the Roots
Root checking is a step very few of us probably take. Either we don’t think of it or don’t feel comfortable removing the seedling from the pot at the store. But it’s something we should all do when shopping for seedlings.
Very gently pull the plant from its container (or ask an employee to do it for you) and check the roots. Brown roots are dead roots. Roots matted at the base indicate they’ve been grown in their nursery container for too long. “Root-Bound” or “Pot-Bound” plants show a stressed seedling that will be harder to replant and may not even recover.
Buds are Best
Like with the taller plants, our eyes are drawn to the plants that have beautiful flowers instead of the ones that are just buds and have yet to bloom. But, plants only blossom for a certain amount of time, and if the flowers are already out in the nursery, then that is flowering time you won’t get at home. Also, plants that have yet to bloom are more likely to survive and thrive the transplanting process.