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Big box store gardening woes

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Why shouldn't you buy plants at big box stores? They look healthy. They pass inspection. Then, you get them home and all heck breaks loose. From fungus to insects, I've experienced plenty of blights brought on by store bought plants. It's almost never a good idea to buy plants from big box stores. Next year, mother nature, please send me a gentle reminder of some kind before I do it again.

Why avoid buying big box store plants?

Big box store plants often carry disease. Mass production breeds mass error. That is to say, when you're pumping out millions of plants a year for big box stores, you don't really have time for due diligence. I've carried home late blight twice now on supposedly disease resistant store bought tomato plants. Never again! For the last several years, all my tomatoes have been grown from seed.

They're all cared for in exactly the same way. Big box store employees are not usually master gardeners. They have many other priorities. When they do have time to water the plants, they're dry as a bone and already stressed. Not only that, all the plants are watered (or should I say saturated) at the same time, regardless of the type of care they need. Watering is the only care they will get until you bring them home.

They could be genetically modified, or... Big box stores look for the best deals on plants. Nothing wrong with that, right? Cheap is the name of their game. Unfortunately, when it comes to things like garden vegetables and herbs, cheap could mean genetically modified, chemical laden or cheaply cared for. Then, they arrive at the store where they receive more non-professional care. Not a good scenario.

They're not inspected regularly. Once again, most big box stores don't employ professional gardeners. As a general rule, they don't have the time or the experience to check for issues with their plants. Plants are tabled in close quarters too. That means disease and pests can easily pass from one to the other.

Let me tell you a story:

Several years ago, I started some cucumber seeds that didn't take. Rather than replanting, I succumbed to buying some pretty little cucumber seedlings at a big box store. They looked really healthy. Just a couple days after planting them, the leaves started looking eaten up. You guessed it. They had bugs.

Worse yet? I bought some marigolds at the big box home improvement store too. The marigolds were intended to keep the bugs off my tomato plants. Big surprise. They had bugs too. Talk about defeating the purpose.

A little piece of advice:

Do yourself a favor. Start all the plants you can from seed, bulb or graft. When that's not possible, buy plants from a quality greenhouse. While you sometimes get lucky buying plants from big box stores, you're generally better off buying from professionals who know how to care for them. They may cost a little more, but at least you don't have to buy them twice!

Here's a new development: It has been discovered that some stores are selling bee friendly plants containing neonicotinoid pesticides, which are harmful or fatal to bees. So be careful the plants you are buying are organic and pesticide free.

This article was previously published on a now closed Yahoo property.

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