How To Buy Healthy Seedlings Of Vegetables And Flowers

In winter every dacha owner is looking forward to spring and with pleasure opens the season with the first sowing of flower and vegetable crops for seedlings. But, unfortunately, the space on the windowsill is limited, and it is not always possible to place in the apartment the right number of seedlings in cups. In addition, some of the seedlings may simply not come up, some die ... And we, dacha owners, how much or no plant - not enough! Therefore, at least some seedlings, but buys almost every gardener. But often the outwardly attractive seedlings can conceal unpleasant surprises. Our article will help you to avoid mistakes when choosing planting material and remain satisfied with your purchase.

How to buy healthy seedlings of vegetables and flowers
How to buy healthy seedlings of vegetables and flowers

Where is it better to buy flower and vegetable seedlings?

Buying at the market from private sellers

The largest selection of seedlings is traditionally present at markets. Beginning in late April, long rows of flowering annuals mixed with green islands of vegetable seedlings appear at the vegetable and "bird" markets. Among the sellers one can find both grannies displaying their excess crops from the windowsills and owners of private greenhouses professionally growing seedlings for sale. Thanks to the abundance of specimen sellers at the markets one can find both the usual set of the most popular plants and their varieties and unexpectedly find something original and exotic.

The disadvantages of buying seedlings at the market:

  • lack of guarantee that seedlings correspond to the stated variety;
  • the seedlings may be weakened because they are kept in the open sun all day and transported daily;
  • the plants are often infected with pests and diseases;
  • plant grown by amateurs is often elongated, overgrown or crooked;
  • unknown origin of flower seedlings (if you are a principled person, you will be unpleasant to realize that the plant may have been dug in other people's front gardens or even in a cemetery).

Buying seedlings from greenhouse owners

Such sellers very rarely join the general ranks of sellers. In order to present their rich assortment, entrepreneurs install huge polycarbonate greenhouses in places frequented by large numbers of potential buyers (most often near markets and large hypermarkets).

Private companies and urban gardening combines that sell their surplus seedlings grown for urban flower beds can use this way of trade. The former have a wide range of seedlings, as well as cuttings of vegetative hybrids. The latter present a small assortment of the most familiar annual plants in cassettes (sorted petunias of several common colors, marigolds, Salvia, annual dahlias, etc.)

Disadvantages of buying seedlings in greenhouses:

  • orientation on profit. For seedlings to have a marketable appearance, at all stages of seedling cultivation, various methods of plant stimulation can be used: high doses of fertilizers, growth stimulants, or, on the contrary, retardants that promote the formation of chunky seedlings (whether the plant can also develop well after it is deprived of such "doping" is a big question);
  • when growing large volumes of seedlings it is much harder   to keep track of pests and diseases;
  • there are whole groups of pests that like greenhouse conditions the most, where they reproduce in huge quantities (greenhouse thrips, whitefly, spider mite, etc.)
  • a poor choice of species and varieties in greenhouses from municipal gardening combinations.
How to buy healthy seedlings of vegetables and flowers
To ensure that seedlings have a marketable appearance, various methods of plant stimulation can be used at all stages of growth

Buying seedlings in Internet shops

With the spread of the Internet it became possible to shop without leaving home. In recent years, in addition to seeds and seedlings, online stores began to offer flower growers and ready-made seedlings of annual plants.

Frequently, such firms sell cuttings of vegetative ornamental plants grown in Holland. Or they sell cuttings taken from their own nurseries, and also supplement the assortment with flowers obtained from seeds.

For residents of small towns and villages, this method is almost the only opportunity to settle in their garden original annuals or unusual varieties of vegetables, not to the trivial set that represent the local markets.

If you decide to order seedlings in the Internet store, you should choose not so much by the assortment, but by the seller's location from your place of residence. The less time the plants spend in the parcel, the more likely they will be alive and healthy.

So first choose the closest online stores, and then start to study the list of plants offered.

Cons of buying seedlings online:

  • need to pay for shipping;
  • risk to get on fraudsters and lose the money (always read reviews about the store at gardeners forum before you make order)
  • plants often die during shipping;
  • unscrupulous seller can send the "assorted" varieties that you ordered.

Buying seedlings in specialized stores or departments of supermarkets

Large super- and hypermarkets always try to bring in seasonal products that are in high demand at a certain time. That is why racks with flower and vegetable seedlings appear in such stores as early as the middle of April.

In most cases these plants are marked with the label with the name of the variety and always correspond to the declared description. Sometimes even very interesting varieties and rare plants can be found in flower stores or supermarkets. You should therefore look there more often in spring.

The disadvantages of buying seedlings in the supermarket:

  • lack of proper care (not all supermarkets have employees competent in the care of plant seedlings);
  • unsuitable conditions (shelf-windows are not the best place for seedlings, due to which plants become weak and are exposed to pests and disease development);
  • need a long overexposure on the window sill. Usually seedlings in supermarkets appear too early, and they are usually already well developed plants, which is time to plant in the ground. However, this cannot be done because of the risk of a return frost for at least another month. All that time the bought seedlings will occupy space in the apartment;
  • As a rule all seedlings in the stores are sold in cartridges and even if you want to buy one or two pieces of concrete sort, you have to buy the whole pack of 6-8 pieces and think where to put the rest of the plants.

Buying seedlings in specialized nurseries

You can also buy vegetable and flower seedlings in nurseries, but usually the nurseries are some distance from the city, and not every gardener wants to make a special trip for seedlings.

In addition the prices in this case often unreasonably high, not including gas costs. However, this is compensated by the high quality of planting material and full varietal compliance.

How to buy healthy seedlings of vegetables and flowers
Russets bought at the market are often infected with pests and diseases. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

Main pests and diseases that can infect seedlings

Spider mite

Starting florists may not notice the problem because this pest is tiny and does not settle down on the reverse side of the leaf plate. A yellowish rippling on the leaves (tiny puncture holes) may indicate the presence of the spider mite. In this case it's better to turn the leaf over and look closely - whether there are tiny dark spots that move very slowly on the leaf surface.

If the seedlings are intended to plant in flowerbeds or vegetable garden, the presence of the pest is not so dangerous, because once the plant gets stronger in the new place and starts growing, the problem can solve itself. But if you choose plants for vases and balcony boxes or it is vegetables for the greenhouse, it is better to refuse to buy infested seedlings. The spider mite multiplies en masse in an enclosed environment and can cause serious damage, and it is not easy to fight it.

The whitefly

The whitefly is a small moth with white wings. This pest is especially dangerous in greenhouses or on balconies, but also in the open ground it causes considerable harm to plants, feeding on the sap of the above-ground plant parts.

Don't find that you can easily defeat the whitefly, unfortunately, this butterfly is very insidious and can permanently settle in your garden or greenhouse, "arriving" on the leaves of purchased plants. Especially fuchsia is loved by the whitefly, so when buying cuttings of this flower, be extremely careful. Also often whiteflies are found on plants from greenhouses.

Aphids

This insect does not need any introduction, because any gardener is well aware of these small green or brown insects that feed on the sap of plants. Most often the aphids like to settle on the weakened seedlings or on the plants overfed with nitrogen.

Fortunately, this pest is not so dangerous and easily perishes under the action of most insecticides, and oviposition even can be destroyed manually. Nevertheless, do not forget that aphids often transmit viral diseases, which results in more serious troubles.

Trips

Small elongated insects 2-2.5 millimeters long. They can range in color from white to almost black, depending on the stage of development and species of the insect. The naked eye can easily see only a large cluster of pests when heavily infested. But often the adult thrips is invisible, while its larvae are located in leaf tissues.

Trips infestation is directly indicated by necrotic spots on leaf laminae resembling sunburns, in which black spots are clearly visible and there is a characteristic glossy sheen.

Thrips is especially dangerous for greenhouses and container plants. Affected plant loses leaves, stops flowering, stops growing, and may die if left untreated.

Mildeworm

The appearance of the powdery worm resembles a small butterfly (0.3-0.5 mm long) covered with white powdery coat as if sprinkled with flour. In most cases the pest is found on plant stems and foliage, but it can also live in the soil and then it may be impossible to suspect the presence of this unpleasant surprise.

As a result of worm activity, the plant becomes severely depressed, leaves become distorted, flowering stops, young shoots stop growing, and later this leads to its death.

Mudworms are not insects, and most insecticides are powerless against them. Fortunately, this pest does not occur that often, but if you are not lucky enough to buy a plant infested with worms, it can turn into a real disaster and a long period of combating it.

The treatment is carried out using a whole complex of specialized drugs strictly according to the scheme. That is why it is important to inspect all purchased seedlings very carefully, and before planting also check the root ball for the presence of white flecks, which can turn out to be an adult worm or its clutches, similar to fluffy lumps.

How to buy healthy seedlings of vegetables and flowers
A spider mite on tomato seedlings. © Horizon Agrotech
How to buy healthy seedlings of vegetables and flowers
Wormfly on tomato seedlings. © manoto
How to buy healthy seedlings of vegetables and flowers
Aphids on pepper sprouts. © Olga Chernova

Fungal diseases of seedlings

Fungal diseases, most often manifested as white or brown plaque, as well as brown spots of various configurations. Theoretically, most varieties of diseases caused by fungus are treatable. And often the fight against the disease is easy, because the development of the disease quickly stops after the plant is planted in a permanent place and goes into growth.

Such a pattern is due to the fact that the disease is usually caused by stressful conditions in which the seedling was. But such a favourable outcome is not always possible and do you really have to waste time nursing the seedlings and putting your plants at risk?

Viral diseases pose a particular risk as there are no cures and the only way is to get rid of an infected specimen as soon as possible. Viral diseases appear in the form of mottled patterns on the leaves that are not characteristic of the species and variety.

General recommendations for the selection of strong seedlings

The soil in the cups should not be dry. Otherwise it may turn out that the over-dried root system of the seedling has suffered a lot and the plant is severely weakened - will take a long and hard time to take root, or will die.

Overgrown seedlings may seem more attractive, because they are large developed bushes with flowers or sometimes ovary of fruit. But as you know, "you make a mockery of people by hastening things." Often the smaller young seedlings after planting in the ground are far ahead of the adult specimens, which are much harder to take root and spend a lot of time and effort on adaptation.

The size of the cup should match the size of the above-ground part of the plant. Seedlings in disproportionately small containers can be very depressed and their development slows down. After planting them in the ground they need more time for the roots to grow and catch up.

It is not uncommon to see situations where seedlings are sold with bare roots or literally pulled out of a common box right in front of you. And if individual plants, for example, tomatoes, can forgive such an attitude, many flowers and vegetables simply will not take root or will be badly and long sick in their new place.

It is best to choose seedlings planted in individual cups, but there is a variant when plants with a well-formed clump of earth are taken out of cassettes during the purchase. The second option is also allowed, but, of course, to plant such seedlings in a permanent place as soon as possible.

For pumpkin crops (cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchinis) any transplanting is a serious stress, stopping their growth, so such seedlings are purchased only in individual cups. Plants will take root more easily if flowering has not yet occurred or if the seedling is in the budding phase. The hand is always drawn to a lushly blooming specimen, but you may lose some of the flowers during adaptation. It is better when the seedling blooms, getting stronger in the new place.

How to buy healthy seedlings of vegetables and flowers
It is best to buy seedlings planted in individual cups

Treatment of purchased seedlings

The most important measure after buying seedlings, which will avoid infection of already existing plantings from potential pests and diseases that seedlings carry in themselves, is quarantine.

A lot of impatient florists or hurried gardeners rush to settle the newcomer to a permanent place, which then turns out to be a series of troubles. It is better to spend a little time on preventive measures than to "chase" a pest or treat diseases all summer.

So, the first step: treatment of seedlings with fungicide (preferably - systemic) in order to get rid of possible spores of fungal pathogens.

The second step - watering under the root with the preparation "Aktara". This measure is very effective against thrips, and in some cases it is also effective against powdery mildew.

The third step: spraying with an anti-stress agent (for example, "Epin-Extra").

If the presence of spider mite is suspected, the plants are also treated. The seedlings remain isolated from other plantings until a double treatment according to the instructions is carried out.

These steps are of course not carried out in one day and are done gradually, although root and foliar treatment can be combined. On average, quarantine of purchased seedlings lasts from one to two weeks.

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