Some might think a plant is a plant is a plant, and one tomato plant, should do as well as another, but for a number of reasons, locally grown vegetable transplants are leaps and bounds better than the alternative. They are better for the environment, better for the health of our soils and local farming community, and most important of all, in my selfish thinking, is that they are better tasting! So before you go to your big box store to start your vegetable garden, think about these reasons why its best to go to that local garden center and buy local vegetable plants instead.
Better for the Environment – Plants that are locally grown don’t have to travel far, saving gas. They are also less likely to be carriers of disease and pests that might damage native or local plants. New England in particular is prone to late blight, and big-box producers are a known source for the spread of the disease.
Better for our Local Farming & Green Community – When you buy local, you are most likely supporting a small, local family business. And, if you buy local vegetable plants, you are less likely to buy products that could spread a disease or pests. This also helps your local farmers, saving them time and money, that they can pass back into the community.
Better Value – Since non-locally grown plants must travel long distances, they are often stressed from lack of water and sun, and they are more likely to be root bound since they have been in those pots a while. You might save a little bit when you buy the plants, but if they don’t survive or produce well, you won’t see much of that value. When you buy local vegetable plants, you may actually save money in the long run!
Better Tasting – Local plant growers tend to select seeds of plants that grow best for the region. The qualities that make a tomato do well in Alabama, are not the same qualities that do well in Massachusetts. Disease resistance, growing days, heat tolerance are all attributes that a local grower will be aware of and select seeds for. Large big-box producers tend to select a few kinds of sure bets that can survive in a variety of conditions, resulting in boring plants that are little better than what you find at the grocery store. When you buy local vegetable plants, you often get more variety, more local heartiness, and more flavor.
While gardening experts agree that it’s best to start your vegetables from seed, most home gardeners simply don’t have the time, space, inclination, or growing season, to start a wide variety of vegetable from seed. It’s great to know that there are other good options at your local garden center. So save the planet, help your community, grow more, and eat better, all by buying local vegetable plants. Seems like a pretty terrific deal to me.
Find your own Local Cooperative Extension Office for regional agricultural information
USABlight.org – A National Project on Tomato & Potato Late Blight in the United States