As many of us excitedly hurry out to plant sales and garden stores this season, be sure to use your garden dollars and sense wisely when purchasing plants. While most plants look healthy and safe for us to take home, we want to ensure that they are by offering a few simple to-dos keep our homes, garden soil, water and pollinators safe. Large industrial greenhouses and nurseries that supply plants to our local stores may  be using harmful chemicals or incubating fungal diseases that can cause a chain of weakening events in our landscapes and injure pollinators. Review the steps below.

Steps to Source Safe and Healthy Plants

  1. Ask Yourself: Are you purchasing plants from reputable sources?  Whether it is a small-scale farmer, a garden center or a huge box store, make sure you can trust the way they grow their plants as well as where they source their seeds. If they have trusted practices and can answer the questions below, you are likely on your way to selecting healthy plants.
  2. Select Disease Resistant Plants. Your grower/store should have plants labeled that have a special resistant to rot or other fungal diseases. For example, a label with “VF” is resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium wilt. If you have disease issue at home, be sure to ask the supplier if they have any varieties that are resistant to these diseases.
  3. Closely inspect plants for signs of insects, diseases or poor care. Lightly brush hand over tops of plants, if you see fly-like insects appear, avoid purchasing these plants. Avoid plants with leaves that wilted, curling, spotted, or have holes and avoid plants that have discolored stems/lesions. Take a few transplants from their containers (if root bound) and notice if the roots are brown/black in color.  Look for plants that are sturdy and appropriately colored.
  4. Ask your grower what soil mix they used on the plants and if it is organic. If it is not certified organic or they cannot prove that the soil mix is chemical free, you may be transporting toxic soil to your home if you buy it.
  5. Ask your grower if their transplants/seedlings are neonicotinoid free. Most garden centers and growers should understand these chemicals and be ready to respond. Do not bring home plants that have been sprayed with any herbicide. pesticide nor insecticide.

For more info on neonicotinoids, check out the Xerces Society free PDF, “NeonicsInYourGarden.pdf.” From annual vegetables to large edible and ornamental fruit trees, the small and steady pressure we put on plant producers by asking and only buying plants that fit the practices above can clean up the toxic plant industry. Lets tell them what we want through our careful questions and with our purchasing power. Now or never.

If you are in need of organic vegetable and herb transplants, be sure to come to our 3rd Annual Plant Sale with  Wozupi Tribal Gardens this Thursday May 16th at the Tiny Diner from 5-8pm.