How to buy healthy vegetable and flower seedlings

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How to buy healthy vegetable and flower seedlings
How to buy healthy vegetable and flower seedlings

In winter, every homeowner is looking forward the spring coming and ready to start the season with the first seedlings of vegetable or flower crops. But unfortunately, the space on the windowsill is limited and it is not always possible to place the right number of seedlings in the cups in the apartment.

In addition, some crops may not grow at all, and some will die… No matter how many we plant, it’s never enough!”. Therefore, there are at least some seedlings, but almost every gardener buys them. But often the attractive appearance of seedlings can hide unpleasant surprises.

Our article will help you to avoid mistakes in choosing vegetable and flower for planting and remain satisfied with your purchase.

In winter, every homeowner is looking forward the spring coming and ready to start the season with the first seedlings of vegetable or flower crops. But unfortunately, the space on the windowsill is limited and it is not always possible to place the right number of seedlings in the cups in the apartment.

In addition, some crops may not grow at all, and some will die… No matter how many we plant, it’s never enough!”. Therefore, there are at least some seedlings, but almost every gardener buys them. But often the attractive appearance of seedlings can hide unpleasant surprises.

Our article will help you to avoid mistakes in choosing vegetable and flower for planting and remain satisfied with your purchase.


WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO BUY SEEDLINGS OF VEGETABLES AND FLOWERS?

Buy from private sellers in the market

Traditionally, the largest selection of seedlings exists in the market. Starting in late April, vegetable and “bird” markets appear in long rows dotted with carpets of flowering annuals and green islands of vegetable seedlings.

Vendors ranged from grandmothers displaying their surplus crops on windowsills to owners of private greenhouses specializing in growing seedlings for sale.

Thanks to a large number of miscellaneous sellers in the market, one can find both the usual favorites and their varieties, as well as the unexpectedly original and exotic.

Disadvantages of buying seedlings in the market:

  1. There is no guarantee that the seedlings will be the same as the declared species.
  2. The seedlings are weak because they are placed in the sun all day and transported every day.
  3. Plants are often infested with pests and diseases.
  4. Seedlings grown by amateurs are often stretched, overgrown, or skewed.
  5. The source of the seedlings is unknown (if you are a principled person, you will be unhappily aware that such plants can be dug up in someone’s front yard or even in a cemetery).

Buying saplings from a greenhouse farmer

Such sellers rarely join the ranks of general sellers. In order to showcase their entire rich variety, entrepreneurs install huge polycarbonate greenhouses in places frequented by a large number of potential buyers (most often near markets and big-box stores).

This trade is available to both private companies and urban gardening consortia, which sell surplus seedlings grown for urban flower beds. The first offers a wide range of seedlings and cuttings of asexual hybrids.

The latter sells a small range of cassettes of the most familiar annuals (several common colors of cultivated petunias, marigolds, salvia, annual dahlias, etc.).

Disadvantages of buying seedlings in the greenhouse:

  1. For profit purposes: in order to give seedlings a marketable appearance, various techniques for stimulating plants can be used at all stages of seedling cultivation: high doses of fertilizers, growth stimulants, or, on the contrary, retardants that promote the formation of dwarf seedlings (it is a big question whether plants develop well even at a later stage when they lose this “growth agent”).
  2. In the case of large seedlings, it is more difficult to keep track of pests and diseases
  3. There are whole groups of pests that like greenhouse conditions best, where they proliferate (greenhouse thrips, whiteflies, spider mites, etc.)
  4. The selection of species and varieties in greenhouses from urban greenhouses is poor.

Buying saplings from online stores

With the popularity of the Internet, it is now possible to buy things from the comfort of your own home. In recent years, in addition to seeds and seedlings, online stores have begun to offer growers ready-made seedlings of annual plants.

In most cases, such companies sell cuttings of asexual ornamentals grown in the Netherlands. Or they sell cuttings obtained from their own nurseries, supplemented by a variety of flowers obtained from the seed.

For residents of small towns and villages, this may be the only way to grow original annuals or unusual vegetable varieties in your garden, rather than matching the mediocre sets available on the local market.

If you decide to order saplings from an online store, choose not so much on the variety as on the seller’s location from where you live. The shorter the time the plants spend in the package, the more likely they will stay alive and healthy.

Therefore, first, choose the nearest online store and then proceed to research the list of plants offered.

Disadvantages of buying seedlings online:

  1. Need to pay shipping costs.
  2. Risk of being duped and losing money (be sure to study feedback about the store on gardening forums before placing an order).
  3. Plants often die during shipping.
  4. Unscrupulous sellers may send “miscellaneous” varieties instead of the ones you ordered.

Buying saplings in specialized stores or supermarket sections

Large supermarkets and big box stores always try to offer seasonal products that are in high demand for a certain period of time. That is why shelves of flower and vegetable seedlings start appearing in such stores as early as mid-April.

In most cases, these plants are labeled with variety and always correspond to the described description. Sometimes it is even possible to find very interesting varieties and rare plants in florists or supermarkets. Therefore, it is worthwhile to look more there in the spring.

Disadvantages of buying saplings in supermarkets:

  1. lack of proper care (not all supermarkets have employees who are able to take care of plant seedlings)
  2. Unsuitable conditions (window-frame plants are not the best place for seedlings, so the plants become weak and vulnerable to pests and diseases)
  3. The need for prolonged overexposure to the windowsill. Often, supermarket seedlings appear too early; they are usually already well-developed plants and it’s time to plant them in the ground. However, you can’t do this for at least a month because of the risk of frost returns. During this time, the bought seedlings will take up space in the apartment.
  4. As a rule, all seedlings in stores are sold inboxes. Even if you want to buy one or two of a particular variety, you must buy the whole package of 6-8 pieces and consider where to put the remaining plants.

Buying seedlings from specialized nurseries

Vegetable and flower seedlings can also be bought at nurseries, but nurseries are usually some distance from the city, and not every gardener wants to make a special trip to buy seedlings.

The prices are often unreasonably high, not counting the cost of gasoline. However, this is compensated by the high quality of the planting material and the complete variety conformity.


MAIN PESTS AND DISEASES THAT CAN INFECT YOUNG PLANTS

Main pests and diseases that can infect young plants
Main pests and diseases that can infect young plants

Spider mite

Beginning flower growers may not notice this problem because this pest is small and does not settle on the back of the leaf disc. Yellowish ripples (tiny punctures) on the leaves may indicate the presence of spider mites.

In this case, it is best to turn the leaf over and look closely – there are no small black spots and they move very slowly across the surface of the leaf.

If the seedlings are intended to be planted in a flower bed or garden, the presence of pests is not so dangerous, as the problem will resolve itself once the plants become stronger and start growing in their new location.

However, if you choose plants for vases and balcony boxes, or vegetables for greenhouses, it is best to start by buying seedlings with pests and refuse them. Spider mites proliferate in enclosed environments and can cause serious damage, and it is not easy to deal with it.


Whitefly

The whitefly is a small butterfly moth with white wings. This pest is particularly dangerous in greenhouses or on balconies, but it can also cause great damage to plants in the open by feeding on the sap in the above-ground parts of the plant.

Do not think that you can easily defeat whiteflies, unfortunately, this butterfly is very insidious and can permanently settle in your garden or greenhouse, “arriving” on the leaves of purchased plants.

Violet flowers are particularly fond of whiteflies, so be very careful when purchasing cuttings of this flower. It is also common to find whiteflies on plants in greenhouse farms.


Aphids

This insect needs no introduction: every gardener knows about this small green to a brown insect that feeds on the sap of plants. They prefer to settle more often on weakened seedlings or on plants that have been given too much nitrogen.

Fortunately, this pest is not that dangerous and is easily killed by most insecticides. You can even kill the eggs by hand. However, you shouldn’t forget that aphids often spread viral diseases that cause more serious trouble.


Thrips

Small, oblong insects, 2 to 2.5 mm long. They range in color from white to almost black, depending on the stage of development and the type of insect.

With the naked eye, it is easy to see a large group of pests only when the infestation is severe. Usually, however, adult thrips are invisible and their larvae are in the leaf tissue.

The immediate manifestation of a thrips infestation is necrotic spots on the leaves, similar to sunburn, in which the black spots are clearly visible and have a characteristic shine.

Thrips are particularly dangerous to greenhouse and container plants. Infected plants lose their leaves, stop flowering and growing, and if left untreated, can lead to their death.


Powdery mildew

Powdery worms resemble small woodlice (0.3-0.5 mm long) with a white coating, like a sprinkling of flour.

This pest is usually found on the stems and leaves of plants, but can also live in the soil – which may make it impossible to doubt the presence of this nasty surprise.

As a result of the bug’s effects, plants become very depressed, their leaves become deformed, flowering stops, young shoots stop growing, and eventually die.

Powdery mildew is not an insect and most insecticides are powerless against it. Fortunately, this pest is not common, but if you are not lucky enough to have a plant that is infested with the bug, it can turn into a real disaster and take a long time to control.

The treatment is strictly planned and carried out using a whole range of specialized medications. Therefore, it is important to check all purchased seedlings very carefully and also check the root ball for white spots before planting, which could be adult insects or their eggs, similar to fluffy lumps.


FUNGAL DISEASES OF SEEDLINGS

Fungal diseases most often appear as white or brown patches or brown spots of different structures. Theoretically, diseases caused by fungi are treatable in most species.

And usually, the fight against the disease is easy, because the development of the disease stops soon after the plant is planted in a fixed place and enters the growth phase.

Such a pattern is due to the fact that the disease is usually caused by the stressful conditions to which the seedlings are exposed. However, this favorable outcome is not always possible, so are you wasting time caring for seedlings and putting your plants at risk?

Particularly dangerous are viral diseases for which there is no treatment and the only way to get rid of infected specimens is to get rid of them as soon as possible. Viral diseases show up as mottled patterns on the leaves, which are not characteristic of the species or variety.


GENERAL ADVICE FOR SELECTING STRONG SEEDLINGS

General advice for selecting strong seedlings
General advice for selecting strong seedlings

The soil in the cups should not be dry. Otherwise, you may find that the seedlings’ excessively dry root systems are greatly affected and the plants are severely weakened – it will be a long and difficult adaptation or will die.

Weedy seedlings may look more attractive because they are large, well-developed bushes with flowers and sometimes fruiting ovaries.

But as we all know, “the heart is in the right place”. Often, the small seedlings after planting in the ground far outnumber the adult specimens, which are much more difficult to root and take a lot of time and effort to acclimate.

The size of the cups should match the size of the above-ground parts of the plant. Seedlings in disproportionately small containers will be severely depressed and their development slowed. After planting them into the ground, they will need more time for the root system to grow and keep up.

It is often the case that seedlings are sold with bare roots or are pulled out of a common box in front of you. If individual plants, such as tomatoes, can be forgiven for such an attitude, many flowers and vegetables are simply not used to it or will be strongly and chronically sick in their new location.

It is better to choose seedlings grown in individual cups, but there are variants of plants with formed clods of soil that are removed from the box at the time of purchase. The second option is also acceptable, but, of course, such seedlings should be planted in a permanent place as soon as possible.

For pumpkin crops (cucumbers, squash, zucchini), any transplanting is serious stress that will prevent their growth, so such seedlings should be purchased only in individual cups.

The best seedlings look like low bushes with juicy leaves of uniform green color. Plants will root more easily if they have not yet flowered or if the seedlings are in the budding stage.

Hands are always drawn to specimens that bloom profusely, but you may lose some flowers during the acclimation process. It’s even better when the seedlings bloom as they gain strength in a new location.


TREATING PURCHASED SEEDLINGS

The most important measure to take after purchasing seedlings is quarantine, which will avoid infecting already existing plantations with potential pests and diseases that carry seedlings.

Many inpatient flower growers or hurried gardeners rush to settle the new arrivals in a fixed place, which then turns into a series of troubles. It is better to spend a little time on preventive measures than to “chase” pests all summer or treat the diseases that bring them.

So the following process needs to be completed :
Step 1: Treat the seedlings with a fungicide (preferably systemic) to get rid of the spores of possible fungal pathogens.
Step 2: Water with a water-soluble granular insecticide below the roots. This measure is very effective against thrips and, in some cases, against mealybugs.
Step 3: Spray with an anti-stress agent.

If spider mites are suspected, treat the plant as well. The seedlings remain isolated from the rest of the plantings until they are double treated as directed.

Of course, these steps are not carried out in one day, but gradually, although root and foliar treatments can be combined. On average, the quarantine time for purchased seedlings is 1 to 2 weeks.

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