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Buying Seeds, Plants and Trees

Where and when to buy vegetable seeds, plants and fruit trees

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Jump to:-   When to buy  | Garden Centres  |  Supermarkets  |  Catalogues  |  Online

Today with super fast delivery, online ordering and many supermarkets offering seed or plants for sale, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying everything from the most common lettuce seeds to specialist dwarf trees for pots.  Furthermore, despite the many hybrid seeds available, it is still possible to save your own seed for sowing the next season. This article explores the various ways you can obtain everything you wish to grow - from vegetables seeds to fruit trees: onion sets to asparagus crowns: strawberry plants to sweet potato slips.

Before going any further, it should be noted that although most seeds are sown in spring (with a very few exceptions) some types of crops may need to be bought already growing and planted at different times of the year, so when choosing what you want to grow, double check on the sowing/planting time before buying and make sure you read the instructions on any seed bought and stick to what the packets recommend - mo matter when you buy them.

When to buy Seeds

Seeds are often available to buy all the year round, however the best time to buy them is late autumn to early spring.

When to buy tubers, sets, plants and trees

Live items - Spring is usually a good time to buy live items such as trees in a container or with a root ball and larger seedlings, however the exact planting time is governed by the individual crop and the prevailing weather conditions. For example, tender plants such as tomatoes and sweetcorn, shouldn't be purchased until late spring and trees supplied in containers shouldn't be planted out if the soil is still frozen or very wet.

Bare Rooted items - Trees and bushes are usually available in Autumn or Spring and should be planted as soon as possible so long as the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. The roots must be kept moist before planting so delay buying them if the weather is inclement. Items such as Asparagus Crowns should be bought and planted out in the spring however tender items such as sweet potato slips shouldn't be purchased until mid to late spring.

 

 

Potato tubers and onion sets - Although onion sets can be bought and planted in early Autumn, it is more usual to buy and plant them in the spring. Seed potatoes can be purchased during the winter ready to be planted out in the spring.

Buying at Garden Centres

This will be the first choice for many, especially as a trip to the garden centre is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. In general, most  garden centres will have seeds available during most of the year just for convenience,  but will only sell growing plants at the correct time for  planting. However, some have been known to sell plants too early, particularly to coincide with the first Spring Bank Holiday. Be aware -  certain plants such as tomatoes will only provide strong healthy plants with good crops if the seed has been sown at the correct time.

Buying plants like these early in spring is likely to result in disappointment and many of the plants will not survive, no matter how careful you are with them, so delay buying them until late spring. A good method is to take a look at our sowing guide for the plant in question and if we've said "Sow in March-April" for example,  then you shouldn't buy any of those types of plants you see on sale before May.

On the up side - garden centres are more likely to have a wider range of seed, plants and trees than other shops from which to choose, which will help ensure you buy the right crops for your situation. Very good garden centres may also have trained staff whose knowledge can be invaluable.

Buying at Supermarkets or DIY Centres

More and more supermarkets and DIY stores are offering seed and plants for sale at various times of the year as an added service to their customers.   Be aware - these types of stores are generally not specialists in vegetable and fruit gardening and are often relying on people making "impulse buys" so the warning given above for garden centres is even more severe.

That's not to say these stores never sell decent plants, but  their choice of seeds and plants will probably be very limited compared to other sources, so we would advise newcomers to crop gardening to buy from another more specialist source until they are confident they know what they are looking for.

Buying from Catalogues

Buying from specialist fruit and vegetable catalogues is a good option and leafing through them choosing what you want is a nice way to spend a winter's evening. They usually have lots of pictures and some information about the seeds and plants they have for sale, and generally a much wider range to from which to choose, including dwarf varieties suitable for small gardens or container growing.

Better still, ordering from a catalogue means you are less likely to impulse buy, ending up with things you don't need or want. The one downside is finding the catalogues, but this can quite easily be done on the internet with a little patience.

There are also many companies to sell specialist items which you may not be able to find in shops such as sweet potato slips, dwarf fruit trees or asparagus crowns and these companies tend to only ship plants at the correct time for planting accompanied with detailed planting and growing advice. Recommended.

Buying On the Internet

Online shopping is another method we recommend. Websites aren't limited by the number of pages or photographs they have to squeeze into a catalogue, so there's likely to be even more information about the crops you are thinking of buying.  There's the added advantage that you are more likely to find specialists selling more unusual varieties of plants and seeds and many have catalogues which you can order. Once again, most of these companies will ship plants at the correct time for planting accompanied with detailed planting and growing advice. Highly Recommended.

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