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An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

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An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  martha on 1/28/2014, 11:48 am

We spend a lot of time talking about diseases and pests, and bemoaning the fate of the honey bees, etc. etc. So often, I bite my tongue and don't say anything, but I read something on line today that caused me to decide to open a new topic.

We cause a lot of these problems when buying plants from large stores, or grocery stores, or any place that isn't directly accountable for what they are selling. 

The severe outbreak of late blight in 2009 was exacerbated by diseased plants being shipped to chains such as Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. If Home Depot buys plants from one diseased field, and ships them across the country to their various distribution centers, we have immediate, wide spread exposure to late blight. And of course, once here, it doesn't go away.

http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/NewsArticles/LateBlightJune09.html

http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Spring2010/LateBlight/tabid/1555/Default.aspx

http://www.growingmagazine.com/print-5133.aspx

" Ask where your plants come from. I like to keep my local nurseries on their toes, so I often ask where their plants come from and how they’ve been grown. Lots of plants have pesticide residue on their blooms and leaves — especially not good for butterfly larvae (big-box stores especially have issues). "
http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/21108015/list/13-Risks-to-Take-for-True-Garden-Rewards


Jessica: I've seen articles that say that big box stores are actually selling flowers that have pesticides sprayed on them. Do you have any recommendations on how to ensure gardens are bee-friendly?


http://earthjustice.org/features/ourwork/down-to-earth-feeling-the-sting-toxic-pesticide-threatens-honeybees

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/bee-killing-pesticide-found-garden-store-plants-what-does-it-6C10919523

And an article that doesn't place all the blame on the large chains:

http://gardenrant.com/2013/12/stopping-bee-killing-pesticides-it-starts-with-the-box-stores.html

Don't get me wrong - I love Home Depot. I shop there a lot. I miss the small independent stores, but they are all but gone, and my local HD has great people with great attitudes - I'm guessing they are paid reasonably well. But I do not buy plants there. Are they a little less expensive? Yes. Can I afford them? No. 

A lot of people garden, at least in large part, to save money. I'm not insensitive to needing to stretch a dollar as far as possible. But if you bought the produce instead of growing it, how much would it cost you? More than if you bought the more expensive plant at the smaller garden center. 

I try to keep my head in the sand, because when I look up and see and read and hear what's going on around me, I get really angry, and frustrated, and scared. 

There's my soapbox for this morning. Back to my coffee and my paperwork, so that I can later today enjoy my time with my seed catalogs.
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  donnainzone5 on 1/28/2014, 12:00 pm

+1!

Several years ago, I bought a Bonnie tomato plant at HD. Before I could even plant it (just a few days), it had turned black. Out it went!
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  plantoid on 1/28/2014, 12:41 pm

When I was researching the meristem propagation system /method it dawned on me that " home grown " plants were in fact meristem cuttings which could be from a laboratory anywhere in the world & the host plants could also be the same .
 
Whilst the cuttings may well be true to type  , it occurred to me that any unwanted trait such as disease susceptibility  could easily be passed from country to country with devastating results if they are not careful. 
 Imaging 6 million potted tomato plants that have been meristem cloned because of having red ,white and sky blue stripes in them also carry a gene that if developed naturally could wipe out the while maize /sweet corn crop  in a country like the USA
 I found that in many cases it is now cheaper to run a meristem operation with cloned cuttings that have roots developed in water & nutrient than it is to grow from seed in many cases due to the shorter production time and the fact that you only need liquids to do it till the cutting is sold to the nursery .
 I wanted 15,000 miniature plants that don't flower  so no seeds . It had to be done by taking cuttings either from roots or parts of the plan .
An Italian  meristem laboratory wanted £ 57 per thousand all delivered in under  five weeks in one batch as bare rooted plants about an inch tall  in a cooled cardboard box  .
A local nursery grower wanted £84  per hundred to get them into 3 inch pots at 1.5 inches tall and nine to fourteen weeks to do it.  I'd have needed a big semi trailer truck for the delivery and a couple off people to unload and set them up in the poly tunnels .

Another nursery was a lot cheaper and I suspect was using brought in  meristem cuttings the potting them up in 2 inch pots  delivering to me @ ' 1 inch tall as the delivery time was only six weeks .
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  walshevak on 1/28/2014, 6:30 pm

WOW. Guess I'm guilty because the only way I have ever been able to grow roses is with some of this stuff. But they are the only thing left that I use this stuff on. Gave up a few years ago. Just planted a rose garden last year. First roses I've had in 10 years. I did use soap spray for aphids and copper fungicide for black spot, but also used the systemic Bayer. Guess I'll just do what I can and if they die, so be it. Sevin used to be my go to choice for everything else in the yard.

Kay

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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  Marc Iverson on 1/28/2014, 7:56 pm

Disease and pest concerns are one of the main reasons I'm trying to grow as much as possible from seed this year. The other big reason is cost. I can buy a whole packet of seed, if not more, for the cost of a single nursery plant. And this year, aside from one or two more packets, I've already got those packets bought and plenty more besides.

Of course, there's also the cost involved with raising from seed to consider, such as seed heat mats, potting soils, seed trays, seed tray covers, lighting and possibly ballasts, etc.

That's one reason I'm taking things one step further this year and also growing a lot more things that can be planted directly in the ground as seeds -- cucumbers, a variety of leaf and root crops -- when the soil warms up. It's also a reason I may take cuttings mid-season and plant them, as I did successfully with quite a few tomato plants last year.

I know when I care a little less about costs I'll probably splurge on all sorts of things that might not pay off economically for years, like a soil-blocking kit and a good lighting set-up. But even then ... I won't be spending much at all on nursery plants anymore. I hope! Both economically and regarding the learning process, buying pre-grown plants doesn't make much sense for me personally anymore.
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  littlejo on 1/28/2014, 8:07 pm

The problem I've found down here, is that everyone, big box to nursery, buy 'Bonnie plants'. I have only found 1 place that grows their own, and they are not Organic, so they prob. use pesticides and commercial fertilizers. I doubt they pay attention to diseases.
I think that it would be a good business, but capital would be next to impossible to get.
So, raising your own plants from seed is the only way to go.
What do you think abt. buying plants from a mail order place like Burpees? I did order 3 basil plants, supposed to not bloom/bolt in this heat. I guess they are hybrids?
Jo
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  brainchasm on 1/28/2014, 8:41 pm

So far everything I have grown was from seeds, and heirloom at that, save two plants:

live basils from Fresh & Easy.  I planted them, and they went hog-wild in my garden.  I probably could have kept them trained better, and yanked them when they flowered, but it was a lot of fun and made the garden (and the compost!) smell amazing.

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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  yolos on 1/28/2014, 9:28 pm

@littlejo wrote:The problem I've found down here, is that everyone, big box to nursery, buy 'Bonnie plants'.
Jo
+1  Even the local nursery (the only one left) sells the Bonnie plants.
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  sanderson on 1/28/2014, 11:41 pm

@brainchasm wrote:So far everything I have grown was from seeds, and heirloom at that, save two plants:
.

Ditto, except 5 plants for me.  An Early Girl, red bell and yellow bell, which over-wintered in my baby green house.  And 2 tomatillos. A lot are heirlooms but not all.
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  martha on 1/29/2014, 12:31 am

Kay, few of us have the time, energy and resources to live in a world of absolutes. I can't say I'll never use insecticides or fungicides. I try not to, so far I have been willing to lose crops rather than use them, but I do plenty of other things I don't believe in. I have no doubt that you put thought into what you are doing.

I guess the more I think about it, the specific point of this thread is buying plants at Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. My dream would be that the plant section of the big box stores would close due to lack of interest. I don't want the stores themselves to go away. I would love them to use the gained floor space for more gardening tools and gadgets!  But buying plants from them is just such a crap shoot, with no way of knowing what was used on them, or what they have been exposed to, before bringing them home. 

And I hear you, Littlejo, on the same-brand plants everywhere you go. It's an uphill battle, at best.
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  Pollinator on 1/30/2014, 11:18 am

A major problem with big box stores - and even our grocery stores - is that they don't care whether a plant is suited for the local environment.

Here in the deep South, I regularly see Red Delicious, McIntosh, Cortland, and whatever other apple trees that are surplus, sold in these stores. It's a ripoff, because these trees need more winter chill than we can provide (most years, anyway). But the store management doesn't seem to care at all. And I've complained to them many times.

I do very much enjoy my apple trees. But they are low chill varieties that are suited to the South - Pink Lady is the best by far. But also Anna, Gold Rush, Arkansas Black and others that do not require very much winter to make fruit buds.
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  camprn on 1/30/2014, 11:44 am

SO, one lesson here is to be forewarned with your own knowledge, as the customer service reps will have very little real information of value to give the customers.

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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  donnainzone5 on 1/30/2014, 11:58 am

The manager at my local Lowe's is actually quite knowledgeable and helpful. This year, I hope to help him start his own SFG! However--the other staff members don't seem to know much of anything.
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  Turan on 1/30/2014, 12:12 pm

I do not buy plants from the big box stores for all the above mentioned reasons. Also their varieties are boring. I do however make a point to buy from local nurseries that grow their own plants and/or buy them from a local grower. I also talk to them about the varieties I want to see, what I am interested in. Sure it will save me money if I grow them all myself, but I see it as a community effort. I asked about Cherokee Purple tomatoes. They got the seed and grew a flat of them. I bought two plants. If no one else bought any at least I covered a bit of their effort. Often they have varieties of things I never heard of, (like pineapple tomatillos) so it is a great way to try them out.

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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  donnainzone5 on 1/30/2014, 12:22 pm

I buy few to no plants at the Big Box stores, but I do like to chit-chat with the Lowe's manager to compare notes, ask questions about the local climate, etc. He's been very helpful.
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  camprn on 1/30/2014, 1:39 pm

@Turan wrote:I do not buy plants from the big box stores for all the above mentioned reasons.  Also their varieties are boring.  I do however make a point to buy from local nurseries that grow their own plants and/or buy them from a local grower.   I also talk to them about the varieties I want to see, what I am interested in.  Sure it will save me money if I grow them all myself, but I see it as a community effort.  I asked about Cherokee Purple tomatoes.  They got the seed and grew a flat of them.  I bought two plants.  If no one else bought any at least I covered a bit of their effort.  Often they have varieties of things I never heard of, (like pineapple tomatillos)  so it is a great way to try them out.  
+1

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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  mapspringer on 1/30/2014, 2:36 pm

I understand the reason for this post and agree about big boxes.  However, I will say that the Lowes by me (and probably HD, too) mostly sells plants that are grown at nurseries less than 50 miles away.  It so happens that Warren County, TN claims to be Nursery Capital of the World, with more than 300 in the surrounding vicinity.

That being said, I try to support the local hardware store, nursery, etc.  If your county or local area has a farmer's co-op go to them!  As I posted in another thread about seeds, [url=localharvest.org]localharvest.org[/url] can direct you to a seller from within a given number of miles of your address.
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Master Gardener's

Post  Rahab222 on 1/31/2014, 12:22 am

Do a Search for your County's Master Gardener's Group, i.e. Fort Bend Master Gardener's.  Every County should have a group.  I just went to their January fruit tree sale.  In March, they will have their tomato and peppers sale.  Beautiful, healthy plants and very reasonably price.  They sell them in both 6" and 8" heights with varieties specifically for your area.
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local grown starts

Post  kauairosina on 2/2/2014, 1:41 am

Our Home Depot and Walmart carry plants started by a local nursery.  My favorite starts come from an independent gardener, Robin, who sells them at two local stores and is very involved in our Seed and Plant Exchange, donating hundreds of starts each quarter (They are on the Equinox and Solstice, etc.)  Lucky us. Laughing
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Re: An unpopular truth - buying plants from big box stores is too expensive

Post  camprn on 2/2/2014, 8:12 am

At our local farmers market there are often seedlings for transplanting for sale.

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