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Selecting Healthy Plants

When it comes to getting started with your garden, you have two choices; planting seeds, or buying seedlings or mature plants. Both have their own benefits. If you plant seeds and care for them every day, you will find it is a much more rewarding experience when you have a full, healthy plant. However, this method is far riskier. I can't tell you how many seeds I've planted and never seen any trace of a plant whatsoever. As an interesting piece of information, most perennials grown from seed will not flower the first year. 

If you choose to buy  plants from a nursery or other retail source and plant them in your garden, selecting healthy plants reduces a lot of the work in getting them established. However, I have found in the past that many under educated nursery workers can absolutely ruin the future of the plant by putting certain chemicals or fertilizers on them. I have adapted to this incompetence by learning to select the healthiest plant of the offerings. Here I will discuss some of the techniques I use for selecting healthy plants.

It may sound superficial, but the one thing you need to check for with your prospective plants is how nice they look. As far as plants go, you can truly judge a book by its cover. If a plant has been treated healthily and has no diseases or pests, you can almost always tell by how nice it looks. If a plant has grown up in improper soil, or has harmful bugs living in it, you can tell from the wilted stems and leaves that are ragged.

If you're browsing the nursery shelves looking for your dream plant, you want to exclude anything that currently has flowers. Plants are less traumatized when transplanted if they do not currently have any flowers. It's best to find ones that just consist of buds. However, if you are looking for a specific color, you will need to purchase a 'blooming' plant in order to verify that your choice is correct. If  you have to choose from flowering plants, then you should do the unthinkable and sever all of the flowers when planting. It will be worth it for the future health of the plant. When a plant is transplanted, it needs to put all of it's energy into growing roots, not producing flowers. 

Always check the roots before you plop down the money to purchase the plant. Of course, if the roots are in absolutely terrible condition you will be able to tell by looking at the rest of the plant. But if the roots are just slightly out of shape, then you probably won't be able to tell just by looking at it. Inspect the roots very closely by removing the plant from it's container for any signs of brownness, rottenness, or softness. The roots should always have a firm, perfectly well formed infrastructure that holds all the soil together. One can easily tell if the roots are before or past their prime, depending on the root to soil ratio. If there is a ridiculous amount of roots with little soil, or a bunch of soil with few roots, you should not buy that plant.

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