Garden centers, hardware stores, discount stores, grocery stores... garden plants are available everywhere right now.
But beware of flats full of flowers. Commercial growers start plants early because bloom sells but they won't adapt to your conditions as well as plants not flowering yet. You want plants which are putting their energy into growth, not bloom. If you absolutely must have plants started too early, try to get yourself to shear off the flowers as soon as you plant. This will encourage root growth, and the plants will bloom better in the long run.
Another indication of plant health is roots coming out of the drainage holes. If there's a thick tangle, the plant is so rootbound within its pot, that it will probably not recover even when you free it into the earth. Just one or two little white roots emerging, however, are a good sign: the plant is ready to expand its territory, and the root ball will hold together when you knock it out of the pot.
Seedlings at the right stage for transplanting may look smaller or less floriferous than plants started earlier, but since they're healthier, in a few weeks they'll be more impressive than too-early plants.
The best buy of all, however, is seedlings grown organically. Every day new health costs are discovered, resulting from agricultural chemicals. Even if you don't eat the plant, when you handle it, what are you absorbing through your skin, or releasing into the air you breathe? (Besides cost to soil ecology....)
In Groton, Kirk Farm has just received organic certification from the Northeast Organic Farming Association, and will be opening May 23. Hours: 9-6:30, 7 days a week. Located at 21 Wyman Road, Deborah and George Kirk have available flats of annuals (including vegetables), as well as some perennials and hanging plants. (Check out their produce, too.) For more information call (978) 448-5871.
In Townsend, Priscilla Williams, the Seedling Specialist, will be selling organic seedlings on Saturday, May 31, and Sunday, June 1, at the historic Reed Homestead, 72 Main Street (Route 119), from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. (No pre-ordering as in past years.) Priscilla offers popular vegetables and flowers and also heirloom varieties; the list of plants on her website gives some idea what you may find that weekend: <http://www.seedlingspecialist.com/index.html>, or you may call her for more information, at (978) 597-3005.
© Copyright 2003 Catherine Holmes Clark