Friday, October 7, 2011

Where can I buy healthy Tomato plants on the web?

Sad stunted Tomato plants at the Supermarket
I walked into our local Supermarket and discovered these sad little stunted Grosse Lisse plants. They're fresh, no doubt. Growing vigorously, yes. But Healthy? This is supposed to be Grosse Lisse and it looks more like KY1. For those of us who handle young Tomato plants every spring Ky is a sprawly, spready variety, Grosse is a tall, quite muscular plant. Did the grower use the wrong seed? Did they get the labels wrong? Both of these can and do happen, we have to put a great deal of work into ensuring that they don't.

No I don't think that's the case.  These tall growing Tomatoes have no stakes. I think these plants have been heavily, really heavily treated with Plant Growth Regulators (PGR's). Plant Hormones. There's nothing illegal in this practice. PGR's are registered for use on all sorts of fruit and vegetables. I did notice shortly after seeing these plants a TV add promoting chicken (I think) not treated with growth hormones and I know from experience that gardeners feel the same way about PGR's. But that's not why I'm growling.

Will these plants ever grow out of this treatment? Or will the novice gardener who purchases and takes them home assume they have done something wrong? You know what happens then; we have lost another gardener.  Grrrrrrr! We infrequently buy young plants - "plugs" when we fall short from our own seed sowing. One draw back in doing this is the PGR treatment of the plugs that prevent the plants growing out the way we expect. If we can't get the result we want, what happens to the home gardener?

Why do nurseries use PGR's?  Shelf life. PGR treated plants stay more compact and hold a magnificent, intense green colouring so they look great on shelves longer and in the case of the plants in the photo there is no need to stake them, a very expensive process.   In the case of plugs, PGR's have the added benefit of evening up the plants size. Treatment at a very early stage is absorbed more readily by the largest, most vigorous plants allowing the smaller plants to catch up. This makes the trays look better and is valuable when transplanting robotically.

What are the alternatives to PGR's. Grow the plants longer and slower. Harden them off outdoors earlier and keep them as dry as possible, this creates a tougher, more resilient plant. Feeding appropriately also helps: not too much and definitely hold back on the sweeties (read Nitrogen and Phosphorus).

Got that off my chest, I feel much better.

Now, I promise I didn't set the two halves of this newsletter up this happened purely by chance.

Would you like to purchase healthy, fresh Tomato plants directly from the grower? (That's me)  Plants guaranteed not to have been treadted with PGR's and I can assure you they have had very little treatment with chemical pesticides.

I trialled posting Tomatoes last year, they arrived safe and sound and grew away very successfully. So enthusiastic am I about this little idea we have created a special web site just for this exersize. It includes an online shopping cart, very high tech. That's us! Please give it a try. We have a selection of more than 20 varieties (when they're all available) including hybrids, heirloom varieties and hertiage Tomatoes like Grosse Lisse and KY1.  The plants are tough and well hardened and pulled from exactly the cell trays we use for our own production and for commercial vegie growers.

Cost? Around $1.90 each delivered to your letter box.

Please let me know what you think of our new project.

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