How to buy healthy seedlings of vegetables and flowers
In winter, every summer resident eagerly awaits spring and with pleasure opens the season with the first sowings of flower and vegetable crops for seedlings. But, unfortunately, the place on the windowsill is limited, and it is not always possible to place the right number of seedlings in glasses in the apartment. In addition, some of the crops may simply not come up, something will die ... And for us, summer residents, no matter how much you plant, Therefore, at least some seedlings are bought by almost every gardener. But often outwardly attractive seedlings can be fraught with unpleasant surprises. Our article will help you avoid mistakes when choosing planting material and be satisfied with your purchase.
Where is it better to buy seedlings of flowers and vegetables?
Buying at the market from private sellers
The largest selection of seedlings is traditionally present in the markets. Starting in late April, long rows appeared in vegetable and bird markets, dotted with carpets of flowering annuals mixed with green islands of vegetable seedlings. Among the sellers you can find both grandmothers who exposed the surplus of crops from their window sills, as well as owners of personal greenhouses professionally growing seedlings for sale.
Due to the abundance of diverse sellers in the markets, you can find both the familiar set of the most popular plants and their varieties, and unexpectedly discover something original and exotic.
Cons of buying seedlings in the market:
- lack of guarantee of seedlings compliance with the declared variety;
- seedlings can be weakened due to the fact that they are kept all day in the open sun and transported daily;
- plants are often infected with pests and diseases;
- seedlings grown by lovers are often elongated, overgrown or crooked;
- unknown origin of flower seedlings (if you are a principled person, then it will be unpleasant for you to realize that the plant can be dug up at other people's front gardens or even in a cemetery).
Buying seedlings from greenhouse owners
Such sellers very rarely stand in the general ranks of sellers. To present their rich assortment, entrepreneurs install huge polycarbonate greenhouses in places visited by a large number of potential buyers (most often, near markets and large hypermarkets).
A similar method of trading can be used by both private companies and urban gardening plants that sell excesses of their seedlings grown for urban flower beds. The former represent a rich selection of seedlings grown from seeds, as well as cuttings of vegetative hybrids. The second ones have a small assortment of the most common annual plants in cassettes (varietal petunias of several common colors, marigolds, salvia, annual dahlias, etc.).
Cons of buying seedlings in greenhouses:
- profit orientation. In order for the seedlings to have a marketable appearance, various methods of plant stimulation can be used at all stages of seedling cultivation: high doses of fertilizers, growth stimulants, or, conversely, retardants that contribute to the formation of stocky seedlings (can the plant also develop well after it loses such “Doping” is a big question);
- when growing large volumes of seedlings, it is much more difficult to keep track of the appearance of harmful insects and diseases;
- there are whole groups of pests that most like the conditions of the greenhouse, where they breed in huge quantities (greenhouse thrips, whitefly, spider mite, etc.).
- a meager selection of species and varieties in greenhouses from urban greening plants.
Buying seedlings in online stores
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.
Most often, such companies are engaged in the sale of cuttings of vegetative ornamental plants grown in the Netherlands. Or they realize cuttings taken from their own mother liquors, and also complement the assortment with flowers obtained from seeds.
For residents of small towns and villages, this method is almost the only opportunity to plant original annuals or unusual varieties of vegetables in their gardens, not to match the banal set that local markets represent.
If you have decided to place an order of seedlings in an online store, then you need to choose not so much in assortment as in the location of the seller from your place of residence. The less time the plants spend in the package, the more likely they are to be alive and healthy.
Therefore, for starters, select the closest online stores, and only after that begin to study the list of proposed plants.
Cons of buying seedlings over the Internet:
- the need to pay for shipping;
- the risk of falling for scammers and losing money (always read reviews about the store on gardener forums before placing an order);
- plants often die during shipment;
- an unscrupulous seller may send a "re-sorting" instead of the varieties you ordered.
Buying seedlings in specialized stores or supermarket departments
Large super- and hypermarkets always try to import seasonal goods that are in high demand in a certain period of time. Therefore, from mid-April, racks with flower and vegetable seedlings appear in such stores.
In most cases, these plants are labeled with a variety designation and always correspond to the declared description. Sometimes in flower shops or supermarkets you can even find very interesting varieties and rare plants. Therefore, in the springtime it is worth checking back often.
Cons of buying seedlings in a supermarket:
- lack of proper care (not all supermarkets have employees who are competent in caring for seedlings);
- inappropriate conditions (display racks are not the best place for seedlings, as a result of which the plants become weakened and are attacked by pests and the development of diseases);
- the need for prolonged overexposure on the windowsill. Usually seedlings in supermarkets appear too early, and, as a rule, these are already well-developed plants, which it is time to plant in the ground. However, this cannot be done due to the risk of return frosts for at least another month. All this time, purchased seedlings will occupy a place in the apartment;
- as a rule, in shops all seedlings are sold in cassettes, and even if you would like to purchase one or two pieces of a particular variety, you have to purchase a whole package of 6-8 pieces and think about where to attach the rest of the plants.
Buying seedlings in specialized nurseries
Also, vegetable and flower seedlings can be purchased in nurseries, but usually nurseries are located at some distance from the city, and not every gardener wants to make a special trip for seedlings.
In addition, prices in this case are often unreasonably high, not including the cost of gasoline. However, this is offset by the high quality of planting material and full varietal compliance.
The main pests and diseases that seedlings are infected
Beginning flower growers may not notice the problem, because this pest is tiny in size and does not settle on the back of the leaf blade. The presence of a spider mite can give out a yellowish ripple on the leaves (tiny holes-punctures). In this case, it is better to turn the sheet over and look closely to see if there are tiny dark dots that move very slowly along the surface of the sheet.
If the seedlings are intended for planting in flowerbeds or in the garden, then the presence of the pest is not so dangerous, because as soon as the plant gets stronger in a new place and grows, the problem can be solved on its own. But if you choose plants for flowerpots and balcony boxes or are these vegetables for a greenhouse, then it is better to refuse to buy infected seedlings. The spider mite multiplies massively in closed ground conditions and can cause serious damage, and it is not easy to deal with it.
Whitefly is a small moth butterfly with white wings. This pest is especially dangerous in greenhouses or on balconies, but also in open ground causes significant harm to plants, eating the juice of the aerial parts of plants.
You will not find that you can easily defeat the whitefly, unfortunately, this butterfly is very insidious and can settle in your garden or greenhouse for a long time, “arriving” on the foliage of the purchased plant. Fuchsia is especially loved by the whitefly, therefore, when buying cuttings of this flower, be extremely careful. Also often white moths are found on plants from greenhouses.
This insect does not need to be introduced, because any gardener is well aware of these small green or brown insects that feed on plant sap. Most often, aphids like to settle on weakened seedlings, or on plants overfed with nitrogen.
Fortunately, this pest is not so dangerous and easily dies under the influence of most insecticides, and egg laying can even be destroyed manually. Nevertheless, do not forget that aphids often spread viral diseases, which turns into more serious troubles.
Small oblong insects 2-2.5 millimeters long. In color, they can vary from white to almost black, depending on the stage of development and types of insect. With the naked eye, you can easily see only a large accumulation of pests with a strong infection. But often adult thrips are invisible, and its larvae are in the tissues of the leaf.
Necrotic spots on leaf blades, reminiscent of sunburn, in which black dots are clearly visible and have a characteristic glossy sheen, directly indicate a thrips infection.
Thrips is especially dangerous for greenhouses and container plants. An infected plant loses its leaves, flowering stops, growth stops and, if untreated, can lead to its death.
In appearance, the mealybug resembles a small wood louse (0.3-0.5 mm in length), covered with a white coating, as if sprinkled with flour. Most often, the pest is located on the stems and foliage of plants, but it can live in the soil, and then it is simply impossible to suspect the presence of such an unpleasant surprise.
As a result of the activity of the worm, the plant becomes very depressed, the leaves are deformed, flowering stops, young shoots cease to grow, and in the future this leads to its death.
The mealybug does not belong to insects, and most insecticides are powerless by forgiving it. Fortunately, this pest is not found so often, however, if you are not lucky enough to get a plant infected with a worm, this can turn into a real disaster and a long period of struggle with it.
Treatment is carried out using a range of specialized drugs strictly according to the scheme. Therefore, it is important to carefully examine the whole seedlings purchased, and before planting, also check the root ball for the presence of white spots, which may be an adult worm or its masonry, similar to fluffy lumps.
Fungal diseases of seedlings
Mushroom diseases, most often, manifest themselves in the form of white or brown plaque, as well as brown spots of various configurations. Theoretically, most varieties of fungal diseases 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 grows.
A similar pattern is associated with the fact that the disease is usually caused by the stressful conditions in which the seedling was located. However, such a favorable outcome is far from always possible, and do you need to spend time nursing a seedling and putting your plants at risk of planting?
Of particular danger are viral diseases, treatment methods for which do not exist and the only way is to get rid of the infected specimen as soon as possible. Viral diseases are manifested in the form of variegated drawings on foliage, not typical for this species and variety.
General recommendations for choosing strong seedlings
The soil in the cups should not be dry. Otherwise, it may turn out that the overdried root system of the seedling has been badly damaged, and the plant is greatly weakened - it will take root for a long time or hard, or die.
Overgrown seedlings may seem more attractive, because they are large developed bushes with flowers or sometimes fruit ovaries. But, as you know, "hurry up - you make people laugh." Often, smaller, young seedlings after planting in the ground are much ahead of adult specimens, which take root much more difficult and require a lot of time and effort to adapt.
The size of the cup should correspond to the size of the aerial part of the plant. Seedlings in disproportionately small containers are very depressed and their development slows down. After planting in the ground, they will need more time for the roots to grow and catch up.
Often there are situations when seedlings are sold with bare roots or literally torn out of a common box right with you. And if individual plants, for example, tomatoes, can forgive such an attitude, then many flowers and vegetables simply will not take root or will be sick for a long time in a new place.
It is best to choose seedlings planted in individual cups, but there is an option when plants with a well-formed lump of earth are removed from the cassettes at the time of purchase. The second option is also acceptable, but, of course, you need to plant such seedlings in a permanent place as quickly as possible.
For pumpkin crops (cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchini), any transplant is a serious stress that stops their growth, therefore such seedlings are acquired only in separate cups.
The best seedlings look like low stocky bushes with lush foliage of a uniform green color. Plants take root more easily if flowering has not yet occurred or the seedling is in the budding phase. The hand always reaches for a lushly flowering specimen, but during adaptation you may lose some of the flowers. It is better when the seedling blooms, gaining strength in a new place.
Processing seedlings purchased
The most important event after buying seedlings, which will avoid infection of existing plantings from potential pests and diseases that the seedling is fraught with, is quarantine.
Many impatient gardeners or hasty gardeners are in a hurry to settle the newcomer in a permanent place, which then turns into a series of troubles. It is better to spend a little time on preventive measures than to "drive" the introduced pest or treat diseases all summer.
So, the first step: the treatment of seedlings with a fungicide (best of all - systemic) in order to get rid of possible spores of fungal pathogens.
The second step is watering the Aktara drug under the root. This measure is very effective against thrips, and in some cases this remedy is also effective against mealybug.
The third step: spraying with an antistress drug (for example, Epin-Extra).
If a spider mite is suspected, the plants are also treated. Until double processing is carried out according to the instructions, the seedlings remain isolated from other plantings.
Of course, these steps are not carried out in one day and are done gradually, although it is possible to combine root and extra root treatment. On average, quarantine of purchased seedlings lasts from one to two weeks.