When you buy vegetable plants- don’t make this mistake!

tomato seedlings for vegetable garden

At the local Garden Expo this winter, while chatting with some fellow gardeners, they mentioned their terrible luck with peppers last year – their fruit didn’t ripen to red. I immediately asked them what variety they grow.

They looked at each other and shrugged, “We don’t know. We just bought starts from Farm and Fleet.” Oops, that was definitely a mistake!

When I was getting ready to leave for a visit with my brother in D.C., he left me a message asking if there was any way to bring him some tomato seedlings. He wanted to grow varieties that were picked out by a “professional”.

When I probed further he told me that last time he went shopping for seedlings the person helping him at the store didn’t know which of the tomato varieties were indeterminate. Not a good sign!

We all have times when we cut corners in the garden. But, buying vegetable starts is not the place to do so. When I was a beginning gardener I thought all varieties of one vegetable were pretty much the same.

Especially things like broccoli, cabbage, and orange carrots, since there’s not much observable difference between the varieties. I would just go to the local store selling seeds and seedlings and buy a handful of what looked good. I often had mixed results and wasn’t sure why.

Lettuce seedlings for the vegetable garden

It wasn’t until I started working on vegetable farms that I realized how much time and effort growers put into selecting varieties that perform well in their fields. A pepper is not a pepper is not a pepper. Variety does matter.

And because variety can mean the difference between success and failure, where you buy your plants from really does matter. So, where should you buy your seedlings this year?

From a local farmer. Buying from someone who is actually growing those same varieties with success in your area means the plants are more likely to produce a bumper crop for you, too. You can also ask the farmer questions, get growing tips, and even ask for suggestions of her own personal favorites.

pepper plants for garden

Stay away from the big box store when it comes to buying vegetable plants! The seedlings sold there are not necessarily selected to do well in your local climate.

The variety might be more acclimated to a garden in Texas than one in Wisconsin. Those are two very different worlds!

Many days pass between when we tuck a seedling into the ground to harvest time. It’s definitely worth the effort to seek out varieties that are more likely to succeed in your local conditions.

This year, go to your local farmers market, find a vegetable farmer, and ask questions about the plants before you buy them. I bet you’ll experience a higher level of success in your garden as a result.

You can read about, and see beautiful photos of, my favorite unique and colorful varieties for the vegetable garden here.

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