Nursery Tips

A plant for sale may not be ready to plant because the weather may interfere.

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"When the daffodils, dogwoods and forsythias begin to bloom, gardeners head off to their favorite nursery eager to buy all kinds of plants," says master gardener Paul James. "And while early bloomers do suggest that the planting season is just around the corner, I've got two words for those of you that can't wait to begin planting: caveat emptor, or buyer beware.

"Just yesterday I visited two nurseries and I was amazed at the number of plants that they had for sale. Of course, nurseries are in the business of selling plants, but what amazed me was that the safe planting date for many of the plants they had on hand--tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tender herbs and even more tender annuals and perennials--are still several weeks away."

In fairness to nursery operators, they often have no choice but to order plants weeks ahead of the ideal planting period to ensure sufficient stocks. But what disturbed James was that neither nursery he visited had any signage that informed customers of that fact. And that's too bad, because the sad truth is that many, if not most casual gardeners assume that if plants are available for sale at the nursery, then it must be safe to plant them. As a result, those same gardeners blame themselves when the plants don't survive a cold snap or a sudden freeze.

So when the planting bug bites you, do yourself a favor. First, don't assume that just because a plant is for sale at the nursery, it's safe to plant it in your garden. And second, don't hesitate to ask the nursery staff if it's safe to plant the plant you're intent on planting.

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