This year’s extended winter meant that, like a lot of our gardening chums, we didn’t get round to sowing as many seeds as we usually do. In order to rapidly replace the gaps we’ll be relying on ‘plug plants’ – young plants that have been sown and germinated by someone else and are large enough to handle, but not so big (or expensive) as to remove all the grow-your-own fun.
Although most garden centres do have some plug plants available, they don’t usually provide many choices, particularly for the veg grower, often with only one variety of the most popular vegetable plants for sale. Specialist nurseries are a much better bet, but online retailers are also well worth considering. Most of the main seed companies sell a large range (we’ve always gone with Suttons Seeds for our plug plants) and you can usually order everything you want in one go with each pack sent out separately when they’re ready.
Any plants we’ve ordered have always been well protected for their overnight travel and turn up in excellent condition. To give them the best start in their new homes you should unpack them as soon as possible, so they get to see the light once more, and pot them up or plant them out at the next available opportunity. Treat the plants as you would do your own sown plants that have reached the same stage in life: some will benefit from being potted up first and kept in a warm location until they’re strong enough to be planted out – remembering to harden them off if they’re moving outside – whereas others will be ready to go into their final positions straight away.
To give you an idea of some of the additional benefits of using plug plants, here are three that we’ve ordered this year.
Tomato Plug Plants
Although we managed to sow one variety of tomato (Black Russian) this year, one variety is never enough for us so we have gone for some tomato plug plants to bolster our harvest! Look out for mixed selections of plug plants that contain more than one flavour of tomato, giving you more choice for your money than a packet of seeds. Also look out for ‘grafted’ plants. This means that each variety has been grafted onto a super-powered rootstock, which is more resistant to disease, is better at absorbing nutrients and will provide an improved yield – things you won’t get from a seed packet. Our plugs arrived a few weeks ago and have already overtaken our more established Black Russians.
Dwarf French Bean Plug Plants
Dwarf French Beans are one of our favourite garden veg. They grow quickly and are incredibly productive despite only taking up a small space in the garden. We like to sow them regularly throughout the year for a continuous harvest but missed out on the earliest sowing opportunity. Our pack of 15 ‘Safari’ Dwarf French Bean plug plants has just arrived and they have immediately been tucked into some of the gaps on the veg patch with some good farmhouse manure to help establish healthy growth. Although more than the price of a packet of seeds they still offer great value and, now they’re in the ground, we’ll start sowing some other varieties in a few weeks to replace these when they’ve done their job.
Perennial Flower Lucky Dip Plug Plants
Unlike the veg plot, our flower borders and pots are fairly well stocked, but we know that as summer continues, gaps will become apparent as some flowers fade and other perennials fail to appear. To fill some of these gaps and replenish pots, we’ve ordered some floral plug plants. But, as we’re not sure what we’ll want and we like a good surprise, we’ve chosen a ‘lucky dip’ value pack mix! The website description promised “a selection of beautiful perennial varieties that will put on a colourful display year after year” and we’ll find out exactly what these are when they arrive in a few weeks’ time. There are bound to be several varieties that appeal to us and, if we have any left over, we’ll swap them with plants from those friends and neighbours who did manage to get their sowing done on time!