Buying Plants

In some cases you will buy in plants. This is typically for such plants as leeks and fruit shrubs, but you can just about buy any plant if you can’t be bothered or haven’t the time to grow from seeds. They are, of course, more expensive – a lot more expensive. This is because:
 
  • Someone else has put the effort into sowing them, raising them and pricking them out.
  • They have to be packed in a more secure way, as they are usually sent by post (unless you buy them from a garden centre locally – but you can’t always get vegetable plants).
  • They are already through the thinning-out stage and well on the way to developing into plants.
 
Plants v Seeds
To give you an idea of the price differential, we have put some examples together. We have shown the difference in the cost of seeds v plants and given a price per unit:
 
  Plant Cost Seed Cost Multiplier
Beetroot 0.20 0.1 20
Brocolli 0.20 0.2 10
Cabbage 0.23 0.4 6
Cauliflower 0.20 0.005 40
Courgette 1.40 0.20 7
French Bean 1.20 0.1 120
Leek 0.17 0.015 10
 
We make no comment as to which is better value – that is entirely subjective – it all depends on whether you wish to pay for the extra convenience, the more rapid take-up; the reduction in waste, etc. We buy leeks, and apart from potatoes, onions and garlic we grow the rest from seed. We hope to, where practicable, grow everything (except potatoes) from seed, wherever possible from our own seeds saved from the previous year.
 
Bulb and tuber crops
In other cases you buy the tubers or bulbs, eg onions, garlic, potatoes, etc. You can now even buy pre-chitted potatoes, but we prefer to chit our own.
 
We like to see the little sprouts coming up as we wander into the spare room – it makes us feel that we are involved in all the stages of growth and it is more of a challenge.
 
Propagating
Once you have established plants, you can start to take cuttings: note that you can’t do this with annual or biennial plants – they just don’t work that way.
 
You can take cuttings from many parts of the plant – stems, leaves and roots. In many cases the plant helps by sending out runners (strawberries) or suckers (blackberries and many others), or by growing off-sets – baby plants that grow up next to the parent (cardoons, globe artichokes). You can also peg down branches and cover them in soil to make new plants
(thyme), and divide the roots (asparagus) or divide up the tubers (Jerusalem artichokes).
 
Catch cropping
This is when a crop is planted on soil that has either been used for another crop which has been harvested, or a quick crop is put in before you plant out the main crop. You are therefore using the ground twice. Make sure that you do not grow the same family of crop in the same area or you will be a) taking out the same nutrients and b) increasing the probability of pests and disease. Rocket is a very fast-growing crop that can be used in this way, as can radish. Note that catch cropping requires very careful planning!
 
Intercropping
This is not the same as catch cropping. This is when two crops (or more) grow together. It is sometimes called interplanting.
 
The idea is that:
 
  • The plants may repel pests from the other crop.
  • They use different aspects of the soil (nutrients, height, depth of soil, etc).
  • They may work in harmony with each other eg by suppressing weeds or giving shade.
  • They can make use of space that will ultimately be needed when a plant reaches its full size, but in the meantime is small.
  • You can double your productivity.
Some examples include;

  • Onions with carrots.
  • Cabbages with an entirely unrelated crop (beans) to confuse cabbage pests.
  • Planting different strains of the same plant, eg disease-resistant cultivars with non-resistant cultivars (still being researched).
  • Squashes/pumpkins below beans or sweetcorn (also called undercropping).
  • Radishes sown among carrots and parsnips – mark the rows and get a crop before the others mature, also spinach and lettuce.