How to choose the best plant starts at the nursery

Choose the best plant starts at your local nursery is important to get your garden off to it’s best start this year! This post was first published as a guest post on the Bakerette.
 Choose the best plant starts
Growing season has arrived for most of us around the country.  Now is the time to get your vegetable and flower starts in the soil.  So here are a few tips to help you choose the best plant starts at your local nursery!
  • Choose the right store!  I avoid box store plants like the plague.  Instead find a local smaller nursery where the employees actually know how to care for seedlings and care about giving you the best product!
  • Find a local grower. Buy directly from the grower if you can.  If not then find a nursery that buys from a local grower.  You want plants that spent hours on a truck not days! (This is another reason I avoid box store nurseries)
  • Buy on the right day.  Ask your nursery when they get new deliveries and shop that day or the next when the selection of plants will be the best and freshest.  Come back often and be picky about what you buy, don’t just get something because its all they have!Watermelon Start
  • Where are the plants being displayed?  Flowers and veggie displays at the front of a store in full sun right next to the hot side walk are not going to be the best plants you can buy.  What does the store look like, is it well kept, are the plants watered well?
  • Look at the leaves of the plant not the flowers.  Nice dark green, healthy looking leaves are more Important than flowers.  In fact I prefer to buy flower plants without flowers.  A plant without flowers but instead with nice tight buds will end up being a much better choice.
  • Smaller compact plants will always be the better choice. This is especially true with vegetable starts. A nice small healthy plant will give you better results
  • Avoid any veggie starts that have flowers (including tomatoes). Flowers on a small vegetable plant often means the plant has been stressed and is trying to hurry and set seed.  Choose veggie starts that are small and compact without any flowers at all. (And never buy a tomato start that already has tomatoes!)Tomato Start
  • Watch out for tall leggy plants.  Many plants can recover from “legginess”, but they will spend weeks trying to compensate when they should be growing.
  • Look at the roots! Don’t be afraid to carefully remove the plant from its pot.  Look for signs of root damage, disease, or root bound plants.  If you pull a start from its container and find a tight clump of circling roots you should move on!  Another sign of a root bound plant is a start that is much larger than you would expect for the size of its pot.  A big plant in a small pot means its root bound. Root bound plants seldom do well and many never recover.Good RootsBad Roots
  • Look out for signs of bug damage or disease.  Be sure to check under the leaves for signs of aphids or other critters that you don’t want to be bringing home with you.  And never choose seedlings that have weeds growing in the pot!

Seed Starting Banner $20 300x250

Take your time, search for the best, don’t grab from the front.  Choose the best plant starts at the nursery.  A little extra time and effort spent at the nursery will pay big dividends later in your garden.
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  1. Kathryn January 7, 2016 11:16 pm Reply

    I didn’t realize picking the plants that have flowers was a bad idea. Now I won’t do that anymore!

    • Mr. Stoney January 8, 2016 12:57 pm Reply

      Plants without flowers are usually smaller but healthier, so I always try to buy without flowers when possible.

  2. John February 13, 2017 11:51 am Reply

    I agree with the article that a little extra time and effort spent when picking plants out of a nursery will be well worth it later. I really like the tip about carefully examining the roots of a plant for disease or damage. I haven’t had too good of luck in the past with my garden, so I’ll be sure to pay special attention to the plants I buy this year!

  3. jresquival March 22, 2017 7:30 pm Reply

    That’s a good tip to find a small nursery store. That way you’ll know they cared for the seedlings correctly. I can never grow anything from a seed, so maybe I should try this to get into gardening.

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