Choosing Seedlings

Nice strong plants with a large cup for plenty of room for roots
Nice strong plants with a large cup for plenty of room for roots

Each year I encounter folks who want to know why their seedling died or simply state the “I cannot grow anything”. I hate hear these words!  The main reason that people fail at gardening is not because they can not grow things or that they are lacking in ability, it is because they start with seedlings or plants that were set up to fail.

Perhaps you are wondering how a plant can be set up to fail?  Well, here is how-

Most of your big box stores or really large retail nurseries get their plants from contract growers.  Contract growers are growers that grow plants for these companies and may be independent, but they are controlled by the big box companies.  An example of  the way the growers are controlled is by the company telling the grower I want this certain plant and this many of this plant in 4 weeks. Now the grower can respond with “That is a plant that takes 8 weeks to grow.”  Then the company simply replies that they don’t care, do it or they will find someone who will.  So the grower then pumps the plant full of synthetic fertilizers, stimulants and even chemicals that cause fruit and plants to ripen prematurely.  Greenhouses are kept at the perfect temperature at all times and grow lights are employed top achieve the most growth in the least amount of time.


Now, after having read that- just how strong of a plant to you think you are going to get from that store?  Not a strong plant at all.  The odds are that plant will die as soon as it is exposed to the real world.  If it does live, it will probably never produce as it should.  So you see, most people who think they cannot grow things really just never had a shot.  Those who do know a bit about how to grow things don’t understand why their stuff dies- it all goes back to the beginning.

Now, consider the small grower, the “mom & pop” garden shop.  These people cannot afford to have unhappy customers who tell folks that every plant they have ever bought from that shop has died.  My customers know my face, know where I live, and my name is literally on the product.  If my customers don’t succeed, I don’t succeed.  I chose this business because I love it.  I WANT my customers to be successful and to enjoy their experience in the garden.  So, therefore, if I tell you it is too early for Basil it is because it is.  Most of the other “small guys” grow like I do.  We seed our flats to have the plants ready at the right time.  I fertilize my plants of course, but I use an organic compost tea once a week.  Not daily.  If you buy a six pack of tomato seedlings that are 8 inches tall- those plants are already stressed.  Those plants are too big for the pot they have been living in for way too long.

It may cost you a little more to buy seedlings from a smaller producer, but you will get better plants.  If you are buying vegetable seedlings, you will get more produce from a plant that has been handled properly from the start.  And, you will feel successful not like a failure!  This makes it far worth a little more money up front.  If you are really strapped for cash, then you will do much better to buy seeds and start your own plants in a sunny window.  Cheap seedlings from big box stores are not the place t0 save money, especially when you are wanting to grown your own food.


6 thoughts on “Choosing Seedlings

  1. I did NOT know this is the way it works! I’m one of those people who can kill a seemingly healthy plant, no matter HOW much time and effort I spend on trying to keep it healthy!

    So do you only sell wholesale or do you sell to the public?

      1. Do you ship though? I did see that you sold to the public at farmers markets and the like. Sorry I didn’t make myself clear. I guess it would be hard to safely ship a whole plant. I know I can order from big seedling companies but I was just wondering if you did the same thing and could ship. I live in Missouri, btw… I’d be interested in ordering herbs and some vegetables.

  2. Man, until this year I have killed every plant I ever owned, seed started or not! This year though I have been extra-attentive and not given up… My plants have shriveled up a few times but with a little TLC a completely shrivled-up seeding came back in 24 hours. I like to think it’s because I picked all hardy, organic heirloom plants instead of the standard box-store seeds! I can’t get those to do anything.

      1. Me too; I was stark terrified when I started that it was gonna be a big waste but so far so good! Just planted arugula on easter and it’s already spouting! :3

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