The Hort Report: Pointers on how to find best vegetable transplants to take home

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The whiter, brighter, hairier and fuzzier a plant is, the better it will be. | Photo courtesy of Pat Greenwell

The calendar says it is spring, but the weather acts like we can still have several more days of winter. 

So what can you be doing? 

I have seen several yards already have been mowed once. I realize many people cut grass short no matter the time of the year. You should allow grass to grow as much as possible this time of year. 

The taller, thicker and deeper-rooted cool-season grass plants growing now will help to shade the yard, thus not allowing as many weeds and unwanted grasses to grow in the hotter months.  

Before mowing, have your tools and equipment ready. Check blades, belts, bearings, tires, oil and water levels, fuel and air filters. 

Clean the yard of anything that could damage your equipment so you don’t have downtime and damaged parts.  

I wrote about overseeding your yard in a previous Hort Report. It is important to let new grass get 3-to-5 inches tall. Mowing too low could pull up new grass by its very small new roots. 

Some already have vegetables growing in raised beds, cool and hot frames. Get out your plans and hit the ground running knowing where everything will be planted.

Some places already are starting to sell vegetable transplants. Here are pointers on selecting the best ones to take home.

Most new vegetable transplants will be just starting to get height, dark green color and more leaves growing from the main stem.

Don’t pick plants that look like they have lacked sunlight, the main stem looks stretched and small around, if they are pale in color or have leaves looking ready to fall off.

Don’t pick plants with any type of insect damage. If you see damage, be careful when getting any plants from that general area. Check for insects by tapping the leaves of the plants to see if anything flies off them. If so, then look somewhere else for your transplants.

What size containers are the transplants growing in? The larger the container, the bigger the plant should be. Most all vegetable transplants will come in a 2, 3, 4, 6 or 12-packs.

Many containers are made from plastic and come in various sizes. Plastic containers are easy to use and are usually cheaper for the producer to use. 

Plastic containers can dry out faster from the heat. The plants might fall out if they get too dry. You will need to water them more. Once the plant’s roots get too big, the sides might spill out.

The other type of container is made from an organic material, like Peat Pots. This allows the plant roots to grow into the sides and bottom of them. They hold water better. Once in the soil, they will decompose. 

I have told people from grade school to an adult to check out the root system of a plant by popping the plant out of the container it is in. This is easy if the plant is in a plastic container. In an organic type, if the roots aren’t growing into the sides you should see them. If they are already growing into the sides, they should be OK to use, depending on how large the plant is in the container. 

The roots should be bright white with a lot of fine fuzzy hairs growing off several main roots. The whiter, brighter, hairier and fuzzier a plant is, the better it will be.

Brown, faded and small roots on plants should be left alone. These plants are under stress and will delay vegetable production.

I appreciate your questions. Call me at 573-588-2040 or see me at Shelby County Implement in Shelbina, Mo. I always enjoy people stopping in and asking me questions. Email me at sci63468@hotmail.com  or check out Greenwell’s Greenhouse Group on Facebook.

Enjoy all the spring weather as you get started with planting your garden.

Pat Greenwell is the owner of Shelby County Implement in Shelbina, Mo. He was a high school agriculture teacher for 11 years. He has taught adult vocational agriculture since 1987. He also is a research assistant at the Truman State University Ag Department Farm. 

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