Going to the garden centre? Not so fast. Be sure to avoid these 5 garden centre shopping mistakes to save money and have better success.
So the weather is warming up and you’re excited to go to the garden centre for the first time this growing season.
Great, except hold onto your wallet as you can easily lose money with these garden centre shopping mistakes.
Garden centres and nurseries are a gardener’s candy store, with lots of tempting purchases just waiting to land in your shopping cart or basket.
So try and go in with a level head and think twice about what you buy, otherwise you might just regret it.
Not Going With A List
Just like with the grocery store, it is better to go to the garden centre with a list. This gives you the opportunity to do some research ahead of time to pick out certain varieties of plants, check on types of fertilizer you want to buy and find out which seed company has the special variety of basil you prefer.
A list will hopefully keep you focussed so there’s less chance to buy random plants and tools.
Plus it helps to have names of plants (Latin names where useful) so that you can get help from the garden centre staff finding everything.
Keep in mind though that sometimes a certain variety of plant or seeds might not be available, so always write down some alternatives, two is usually enough.
A list will also save you a repeat trip back to the garden centre to buy what you forgot, which of course has the potential for more impulse purchases.
Buying Plants Too Early
This is probably the most common of the 5 garden centre shopping mistakes: caving in to temptation!
In early spring, almost every garden centres tempt you with beautiful seedlings that look great and make you yearn to get started sooner than you probably should.
Buying heat-loving plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant too early can spell disaster if the weather has not warmed up enough, especially if you haven’t passed your last frost date.
Garden centres usually have these plants at least under cover if not in a greenhouse where the plants are protected from frost.
If you have a greenhouse or polytunnel yourself or even a protected carport or unheated garage you can take a chance and buy them but don’t put them out yet in your garden.
Even in June you should still find some tomato plants for sale. No need to rush, plus you may end up with larger plants for the same price as small plants or even get them cheaper as garden centres try to get rid of plants rather than throwing them out.
Buying Neglected Plants
Well-run garden centres treat their plants well and keep them watered and protected from the elements.
However due to short-staffing or other issues, some garden centres may sell plants that have seen better times. Honestly some of the plants that they try to sell should really be composted!
When shopping for plants definitely be on the lookout for plants that have been neglected. Wilting or dead foliage is a good indication they haven’t been watered enough. Lift the containers and if they are very light then they haven’t seen water for several days.
Avoid plants that have a lot of dead leaves at the base or show evidence of mildew or other diseases. You want healthy green foliage.
Sometimes you may be able to get neglected plants for a decent discount and can nurse the plants back to health once you have them in your garden. However if you’re a beginner or tight on time, you may want to skip these as they can be tricky to nurse back to a healthy state.
Buying Plants Easily Grown From Seed
I fully understand that for a beginner food grower, buying seedlings or transplants where the hard work of germinating seeds is done.
However especially for vegetable plants, sometimes buying seedlings or transplants really makes no sense.
Lettuce is a great example. Lettuce seeds usually germinate readily and it’s as simply as sprinkling some seeds on top of a container filled with potting soil, watering it in well and even in a few days you should see some seeds germinating.
Radishes also sprout easily from seeds (photo is of radish seeds) and grow so fast that buying transplants wouldn’t make much sense.
Beans and peas are another crop that generally is easy to seed as the bean seeds are fairly big (compared to something like carrot seeds) and usually sprout within days of planting.
Speaking of carrots and other root crops such as parsnips: often these do better if you direct seed them in your garden as they typically don’t transplant well.
And over time as you gain experience, you’ll find it easier to germinate the more difficult seeds. Even celery which is notorious for being one of the most difficult seeds to germinate, can be successfully germinated given enough patience as it can take weeks!
And really a packet of seeds costs just as much as a six-pack of seedlings and will grow 10 times more plants. Yes, you will perhaps need some seeding supplies if starting seeds indoors for transplanting later, but a lot of that equipment can be used year after year.
I talked more about the benefits of seeds in this post: Seeds Or Seedlings? Which One Is The Better Choice?
Buying Soil in Bags for a Raised Bed
Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with buying bags of soil for a few containers. That makes sense.
However if you need to buy 10 or more bags of soil to fill a raised bed, you may want to rethink that plan.
First of all cost-wise you may find it’s cheaper to purchase a yard or two of soil and if you have a pickup truck or a utility trailer, you can save the delivery cost and pick it up yourself.
Or arrange for a delivery. Now keep in mind that most landscape companies charge a delivery fee and often that can be almost as much or even more than the actual product cost. So one way is to arrange with your neighbours to split the cost and have the soil delivered to one central location that they can then come with wheelbarrows or a pickup truck to pick up their share.
Some big box stores will even deliver a few yards of soil or compost in a large bag that gets dropped off and you empty it and then they come and pick it up again to reuse.
But it’s not only the cost of bagged soil that makes this not a great idea. What do you do with all the empty bags?
We all know the problem that exists with plastic, especially the so-called single-use plastics. They are clogging up our garbage dumps, getting into our oceans and being ingested by sea creatures or getting tangled up.
Going to the garden centre should be a great experience, but there are some pitfalls as well.
By avoiding these 5 garden centre shopping mistakes, you can save money and have a better growing season.
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC