Buy plants & seeds at right place
By Guest Columnist Gary R. Bachman
During the COVID-19 pandemic, huge numbers of people have discovered the joys and benefits of gardening, but they will need to become intentional gardeners to assure continuing enjoyment in their gardens, planning what they will grow and buying the right seeds and plants at the right place.
I’m in my 2021 garden planning mode right now, and along with many other intentional gardeners, I have my mind on seeds. The intentional gardener needs to begin the new year by purchasing seeds, but be aware that the source is important.
When I want to buy seeds for my home landscape, I like to shop the local, independent garden centers. Their seed racks are always a highlight of my gardening year.
If you do any kind of gardening, you know that impulse buying without knowing where the plant is going to be placed is part of the game. But being an intentional gardener means you must control these impulses.
Now the thing about the display racks of seeds is that the selection is generally limited to reliable garden standbys. This is the place to buy those standard seeds. But these garden center displays can’t offer the numerous specialty varieties because of the sheer numbers available. That’s where the garden catalogs fit in. You can find exactly the variety you want, including the new selections you’ve read about. Be sure to order from reputable companies. My recommendation is to choose those that provide great products and even better customer service. I strongly recommend buying seeds directly from reputable businesses with a proven history of selling high-quality products, rather than major online retailers or auction sites. You don’t know where the seeds are coming from.
Sure, I could and sometimes do go to the big box or home improvement stores, but there is a huge difference between plant material bought from these sources and independent garden centers. You can count on working with a knowledgeable staff. Many independents pride themselves for having experience with local and regional plant selections and growing information. Don’t hesitate to ask questions because they’ll have answers and suggestions for you to be successful. These professionals are happy to give you personal assistance with your plant purchases. Many independent garden centers are associated with design and build or landscape maintenance divisions. They can offer a high level of services available besides the basic plant material.
The plant selections at independent garden centers are usually more extensive than those found at other outlets. And if they don’t have what you’re looking for, many will try to source it for you. Independent garden centers typically work with an assortment of wholesale growers. Having a grower network like this can really be a benefit to the home gardener.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated quarantines threatened the independent garden centers as businesses. In Mississippi, we were extremely fortunate that gardens centers were deemed essential and could remain open. Independent garden centers rely on the customer base of the home gardener, as sales of consumer horticulture products account for 100% of their revenue. These sales are less than 5% of revenue for the big box stores. I want to encourage all of us to be intentional and support our local independent garden centers this year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.