Gardening Basics

Shopping Tips: Buying Plants and Tools

Paul James offers advice on how you can make the most of your gardening dollar.

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Paul James, master gardener and host of Gardening by the Yard

Spacing and Exposure

Before rushing to your local nursery or garden center to fill a bare spot in your yard, consider these things:

  • Have an idea of how much room you have to plant, and determine how many plants you'll need. This will save you from buying too many or too few plants.
  • Be sure you know how much sun exposure there is in the area where you're planting. The plant choice is made easier if you are familiar with the type of soil in your yard.

Shopping Smarts

  • Try shopping during "off" hours — weekday mornings, for example — and cultivate relationships with nursery salespeople, as this can prove valuable in your quest for landscaping items.
  • Low prices and healthy stock don't always go hand in hand; inspect plants and make sure they've been well cared for while waiting to be sold. Avoid plants that have yellowing leaves or signs of disease or insect problems. Sale prices can mean the preferred planting time is over or that the plant is past its prime.
  • When buying garden tools, it's a good idea to remember the motto "You get what you pay for." When you're in the market for a new tool, buy the best you can afford; it will pay off in the long run. And check on a discount if you make large purchases; you may not always get one, but it won't hurt to ask.

Less Is More

  • If you're buying flowers or vegetable transplants, try to avoid plants with fully developed flowers. Look for plants with tight buds that aren't open yet, and keep in mind that bigger isn't always better. Small plants with few flowers or fruit are often healthier and suffer little transplant shock, while larger plants tend to be fed a diet of high-nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Inspect roots to make sure they're healthy. If the nursery salespeople don't like this, take your business elsewhere. As soon as you get your plants home, start planting, and during the first few critical weeks, remember to water regularly.

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