GardeningGrowing from scratch or by flat: Your decision

Published on Thu, Apr 21, 2005 by Barbara Wean

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Growing from scratch or by flat: Your decision

By Barbara Wean

Hello again. The planting season is heating up and everywhere I go, the grocery stores, drugstores, big box stores and almost everywhere else are getting into the plant selling business, so I want to talk about the plants that are easily available. I’m not talking about nurseries where you would expect to get informed help with your plants, but anywhere else where you are on your own.

If you shop early, it may be too early (tender plants can get caught in an unexpected late frost) and if you wait too long, plants get leggy, wilted and depressed. I think it’s possible to find some great bargain, loss leaders if you will, but look hard and make your choice wisely. Be an early bird and buy when fresh plants come before the weekend rush.

The best bargains may be evergreens, shrubs, and perennials. If you buy in bulk, for instance arborvitae for a hedge, you may be able to get an additional discount by buying larger numbers. Judge the quality of the roots. Pull a plant out of its container (the salesperson may be startled, but go for it) and make sure the roots are not coiled or poking out of the drainage holes. If it is, it is rootbound and it has been in the container too long. Choose another one.

If you find good quality plants, buy them, they will do just fine. But, for heaven’s sake, why pay $2.99 for a six pack of annuals or veggie plants when you can plant maybe 50 to 100 seeds or more for less money and be nearly certain they will grow into productive plants. Now granted, we don’t all need 100 zucchini plants to keep us in squash, but how about lots of colorful, fragrant annual flowers for cutting, or three varieties of different colored string beans to freeze?

This is the time to stock up on seeds and you still have lots of time to ready a flower or vegetable bed by working the soil and adding compost. The usual last frost date is the in the first week or two of May.

Annuals and many vegetables are easy to grow from seed even if you don’t think you have a green thumb. Actually a green thumb has nothing to do with successful gardening. All plants need is fertilizer, water, weeding and talking to if they are being recalcitrant.

The very easiest plants that I have found grow from seed are radishes, lettuce varieties, mesclun, spinach, turnip, swiss chard, beans, beets, zucchini, summer squash, herbs and kale. For flowers, cosmos, marigolds, bachelors buttons, poppies, nasturtium, pansies, petunias and many others. Just look at the seed racks. Then the next important thing is to read the directions thoroughly because some plants need light to germinate and some need to be covered. If you plant at the correct time and the correct way it will go a long way to ensuring success with your plants.

If you are with me this far I know that you are a true experimentalist and a future plants person. You hate to pay $2.99 for six seedlings when you are a real shopper determined to find a true bargain and can get 100 plants for a little elbow grease and less money. Happy shopping and see you next week!