Look Before You Buy

Purchasing vegetable plants may be a fun endeavor that’ll jump start your garden, but beware; there are some vegetables that may set up a beginner for disappointment or failure. 

First and foremost, look to see if the plant is healthy. Stems should be sturdy and roots should just be poking through the bottom. If a couple of leaves near the base are yellow, then don’t fret. The first leaves on the bottom are often sacrificed by the plant to help support the newer growth. If, however, there are unsightly brown spots, it might be best to avoid buying that particular plant, in case it’s a fungal or bacterial infection. 

Then check the plant for bugs. I once went to buy a plant, because the stem looked extra thick. Turned out it was a cluster of green aphids nicely camouflaged the same color of the plant! Some bugs hide under the leaves as well. Check for white fly on peppers and basil. They love those in particular! Simply brushing your hand over the tops of the plants will disturb white fly enough to cause them to flutter into the air.   

If you are not familiar with a plant, do a little research on it. Many box stores have no say as to what is brought into their store for sale, and because the stores are trying to please a wide variety of growing zones, some are not necessarily the best for the Northwest.  Some vegetables grow better with longer, hotter summers, while others varieties bred for cold and super short summers may not taste as good, because the fruit doesn’t take the time to turn starch into sugars.

These are tried and tested favorites by me! 

Tomatoes- Determinate varieties are best for patio containers. They are short and stocky vs. indeterminate varieties, which are best for in-ground because they get huge!

Determinate: Legend- a variety that is very disease resistant, a heavy producer, and very tasty. Mariana is a large roma type, and New Yorker is best for cooler climates. If growing cherry tomatoes in pots, try Zebra Cherry or Gold Nugget Cherry. 

Indeterminate (stake these well!)- Black Krim, always a favorite dark purple slicer. Amish Paste is the best tasting roma variety around, and Moskovich is an excellent Russian heirloom. The best indeterminate cherries are Sungold, Chocolate Cherry, Isis Candy, and Sweet Million, in my opinion.    

Peppers can be grown successfully in full sun and rich soil. Plant several for best pollination. Never grown peppers before? These are great for beginners: Jalapeno and Long Thin Cayenne for hot, hot, hot! They are heavy producers and take abuse better than others. Grow ‘non-bell’ sweets rather than ‘bell’ types, which are heavier producers and tolerate more extremes of water and temperatures. Try: Gypsy, Lipstick, Sweet Banana, and Coro de Toro!

Plant in good, composted potting soil in lots of sunlight. Water thoroughly and deeply, and fertilize with organic fertilizer every other watering. You’ll be surprised with the results!

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