Buying in Plants

Just some thoughts about buying in plants instead of growing from seed. I prefer growing from seed but sometimes it makes more sense to buy in young plants. This year I was tight for space with a greenhouse being refurbished so bought in peppers, aubergines and some cucumbers.

Garden Centres have replaced traditional plant nurseries

When we still had nurseries before they were replaced with garden centres, most gardeners would buy in many if not most of their plants, both decorative and for the vegetable plot. The plant nursery with its heated glasshouses and skilled staff produced high quality plants in volume at low cost.

Greenhouses were relatively expensive compared with today so many people didn’t have one to bring their seedlings on in. Even sowing and potting compost to buy was not available. Keen gardeners would make their own, sterilising the seed compost in large steamers heated on a wood fire in the garden.

So people would head off to the nursery for a dozen cabbage plants and some bedding plants for the front garden. Plants were also available for mail order, usually in large quantities.

Over time things changed as they always do and selling plants became less important to the new garden centres. Their profits were boosted by the cafe, trinkets and gifts sold in the shop located in a converted glasshouse.

The keen gardeners now has a greenhouse at home, cheap plastic pots and seed trays, electric propagators and affordable seed and potting composts. Raising plants from seed has never been easier for the amateur grower. It still requires some skill and effort though.

Costs, Choice & Quality

Generally it’s only a little cheaper to grow from seed if you just want a couple of tomato plants. It’s a lot less effort as well to just buy plants in. Of course, much depends on where you’re buying from.

Buying in plants mail order is a bit of a gamble. I recently bought some strawberry plants from an Ebay seller – Gardeners Dream. The quality was good, they sent 13 although I ordered 10 and I was very satisfied.

I’ve occasionally bought plants online from the major seed companies and usually wish I hadn’t. If I’d seen them on a shelf at a garden centre my reaction would have been “I’m not paying that for that!”

We went into a couple of local garden centres recently. One has large glasshouses and you walk between the benches that are loaded with plants I’d have been proud to have grown. Tomatoes were £1.75 per plant.

The other obviously buys in their plants. Their tomatoes were barely past their seed leaves and none looked healthy. Priced at £2.00 per plant.

That’s the benefit of going to the garden centre and seeing what they’re like before you part with your cash.

There is, of course, another benefit to growing from seed. You get to grow what you want. We really like Crimson Plum tomatoes but I’ve yet to see them in the garden centre.

Other Vegetable Plants

What surprised me was the vegetable plants being sold. Radishes in a pot for £2.00 is just silly. They’re just so easy and fast to grow. Carrots – if you can successfully transplant and grow carrots, you’re a better gardener than me. I asked the assistant why they were selling carrots that are very difficult to transplant. I was told people keep asking for them.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
3 comments on “Buying in Plants
  1. Peter Hare says:

    When I first a garden I didn’t know better transplanted carrot seedling with success. This year I started my carrots in root trainer and transplanted them out in three rows all growing well.

    • John Harrison says:

      Amazing! I tried it and ended up with the squiggly monster!

      • Chris Durrant says:

        John, Sorry for a lengthy response, but I hope the following experiences help other allotmenteers. My soil is a clay & starting carrots & parsnips off in compost in the greenhouse & then transplanting to the soil has never worked for me, even if you manage to get the entire contents of the pot into the ground intact. I think that when the root encounters the denser clay soil they just won’t have it & you end up with your small squiggly monsters or they just pop their clogs. I got around this to an extent by rotavating, adding sand & compost then ridging up & flattening the top & planting the seeds direct or transplanting seedlings into the top of the ridges & it seems to work reasonably well – you still get some failures though. Spraying water over the ridge after planting sets the clay soil to a thin hard crust so the ridge keeps its shape & the soil below stays relatively “fluffed” from the rotavating. The ridge won’t survive a prolonged heavy rain though, and if that happens in the early growing & compacts the clay soil you’ll get your monsters again. If you can get the carrots & parsnips into mid season without a monsoon, they’re established & deep enough to keep growing down & straight & I had a few Hollow Crown parsnips that were 16″ long with 3″ shoulders a few years ago – in clay soil! Growing is a constant battle isn’t it? Currently, willow herb & couch grass is tormenting, but the chickweed seems to have disappeared totally.

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