Now that our Gardens are Ready, We Need to Buy Plants
by Rebecca Shea
It’s finally spring (PHEW!). That means seedling and plant sales will be popping up all around the Hudson Valley. These sales are a welcome sight for gardeners, especially those of us who have been too busy to start seeds in late winter.
Many of these sales are homespun events sponsored by community organizations or put on by local farmers. The money you spend at these local sales directly benefits our communities. Profits often fund neighborhood beautification projects, educational programs, or are a much needed boost for the cash flow of hard working farmers who need and deserve our business.
Hudson Valley seedling and plant sales usually offer a variety of organic starters and a selection of plants well suited to our local growing conditions. You may have a hard time finding such an array of plants in any other one-stop shopping experience.
Another benefit of local plant sales is having your questions answered by farmers, experienced gardeners, and landscape designers—who are often on hand at these one-day events.
Here are some tips for navigating these wonderful springtime events:
Be prepared: Most plant sales are held rain or shine. Check the weather and dress appropriately. Wellies and garden gloves are a must in the rain.
Determine what you want: Consult any garden notes from last year and make a list. If the sale has a website, consult it. If not, make a phone call and find out what they will offer. Also, some sales ask that you order ahead and then pick up plants at the event. If you missed this opportunity don’t fret, take a chance and stop by on the pick-up dates. Surplus happens!
Determine what you need: Try not to buy too much. (“I’ll try, honey, I promise.”) If you have a list, it can help you focus. Remember, new plants need constant attention. You may have time to care for a dozen seedlings, but not 30.
Go early: Annual plant sales have loyal followers and attract crowds—varieties sell out fast. And as we all have learned, gorgeous hanging baskets go fast; if you see it and you like it, buy it then. Potted up annuals with dazzling color also sell out quickly.
Seek out specialty sales: Smaller sales are the way to go if you’re only interested in a few specific plants. (But arriving early is still a good idea.) Some very generous farmers hold two sales in spring—one for cooler crop seedlings and then another for summer stock. There are also a growing number of native plant sales.
Bring cash: Many of the best sales are fundraisers by small organizations and they simply can’t afford credit card processing fees. Prices are typically very reasonable so small denominations are appreciated and keep the haggling to a bare minimum.
Be prepared to haul: Bring wide bottom reusable totes like an old boat bag. Boxes, trays and milk crates are also helpful. For bigger plants, a kid’s wagon or laundry cart is a great help.
Look plants over carefully: Inspect each plant before you buy. Look on the stems and under the leaves. Aphids can be rinsed away but that’s a step you can avoid with careful inspection.
Read labels: Homespun plant sales are notorious for unidentified plants. If you come across a plant missing a label ask a volunteer to identify it. If it remains an unknown, take a pass. Labeling starter containers with a permanent marker is a good thing too. Just in case any labels go missing or get confused.
Here are just a few of the many great sales that will be held this Spring. Enjoy!
• April 16: Stonecrop Gardens Alpine Plant Sale, 81 Stonecrop Lane, Cold Spring
• April 26: Back to Basics Farm Cool Weather Seedling Sale, 209 Mettacahonts Road, Accord
• May 10: Verplank Garden Club Plant Sale, Fishkill Town Hall, 807 Route 52, Fishkill
• May 10: Back to Basics Farm Seedling Sale, 209 Mettacahonts Road, Accord
• May 16 & 17: Dutchess Master Gardener Plant Sale, Dutchess County Farm & Home Center, 2715 Route 44, Millbrook
• May 17: New Paltz Garden Club Plant Sale & Swap, Deyo Hall, 18 Broadhead Avenue, New Paltz
• May 17 & 18: Catskill Native Nursery Wildflower Festival & Heirloom Seedling Sale, 607 Samsonville Road, Kerhonkson
• May 24-26: Vanderbilt Garden Plant Sale, F.W. Vanderbilt Historic Site, 119 Vanderbilt Park Road, Hyde Park
• June 6: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County 16th Annual Great Plant Swap & Sale, Forsyth Park Pavilion, Kingston