Monday, May 20, 2019

The Best and Worst Vegetables and Herbs to Buy from a Nursery

My gardening philosophy is to start all my plants from seeds. But there have been times when I'm far behind on the season and I need a plant to help get my garden established, or the plant I want to grow is a pain to start from seed. In this article, you will learn which vegetable starts are worth buying from a nursery, and which ones you are better off starting from seed.

I have memory of one of the first times I passed through a nursery and saw some lettuce starts for sale. However, they were already bolting in the flat. Talk about a terrible deal! Growing those plants would be a miserable experience. You wouldn't be able to eat the plant as the leaves have already turned bitter. All that plant would be good for is saving seeds, and what fun is saving the seeds from a plant that couldn't grow to its full potential?
Plants that have a short growth cycle and are likely to bolt soon after transplanting you should pass on. This includes bok choy, lettuce, and spinach. These three are pretty easy to start from seed, so I would recommend sticking to doing that with those vegetables.

The other type of vegetable to avoid when shopping for plants are those that don't survive transplant shock well. This includes Cucumbers, Squash, beans, and peas. And much like the vegetables I mentioned previously, the seeds for those 4 germinate rather easily. Just leave those plants on the shelf.
Which vegetables should you buy from the nursery to get the most value for your garden?

Vegetables and herbs that you can propagate from cuttings are good purchases from the store, as one or several plants can populate your garden quickly. This would include tomatoes, peppers, and basil to name a few.
Case in point: back in 2016, I bought a flat of cherry tomato varieties from which I propagated cuttings off of all 6 plants. I had more plants then I knew what to do with. I did similar things to a flat of Fresno Chili peppers. A singular plant of basil ended up giving me more basil and basil plants than I knew what to do with that year. I'll link to some guides on how to propagate all three of these plants from cuttings at the bottom of this article.

If buying tomato plants from the store, select an indeterminate variety when buying. This type of tomato repeatedly produces fruit as the season progresses.
Herbs like basil, although easy to start from seed, can take several weeks to reach the stage of growth when cuttings can be taken. Plus since basil is so easily and widely grown, whole plants can be bought from nurseries and even grocery stores for about the same price as the basil in the produce aisle.
Other herbs worth buying from the store include mint and rosemary. Mint plants are good purchases because they'll come in a container already and grow back super quick after being harvested. Starting mint from seed is also annoying just due to how small the seeds are. It has to be one of my least favorite plants to start from seed.

Buy vegetable starts of plants that:
Continuously produce throughout the season or regrow after harvesting quickly
Can be propagated from cuttings
Are difficult to start from seed or have slow development

Buy these: Tomatoes, Peppers, Basil, Mint, Rosemary, Other Herbs

Don't buy vegetables starts of plants that:
Have a short lifespan
Don't survive transplant shock well
Can be germinated from seed easily

Don't buy these: Bok Choy, Peas, Beans, Cucumbers, Squash/Pumpkins, Lettuce, Spinach

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  1. Thanks for the tips. I'm always confused about what plantings to buy, especially because big box stores sell so many things that are obviously not going to work in zone 9-11.

    1. Happy to help! I too live in zone 9 so at least some of these can survive year around depending on how lucky you get with frost during your winters


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