Novice gardeners warned with regards to expensive plants

Which? Gardening report condemns cost of vegetable plug plants as a complete waste of money

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Novice gardeners have been warned in a Which? Gardening report against buying plants that end up producing carrots costing more than £1 each and condemns them as "a complete waste of money". I think I have to agree with those findings.

The Which? Gardening report found growers could be spending 100 times more than they needed to on their vegetable patch.

The study found one company, Gardening Direct, selling carrot plug plants for £1.09 each, with each yielding just one carrot.

With a resurgence in grow-your-own and spring approaching, the consumer group points out that carrots are easy to grow from seed. A packet containing hundreds of seeds can cost as little as £1.

Which? found the same company selling beetroot plug plants at the same price. Beetroot is also easy to grow from seed.

Thompson and Morgan sold carrot plug plants for the cheaper price of 14p, but they still offered "really poor value for money" compared with seeds, Which? Said.

Thompson and Morgan, Suttons and Dobies all sold beetroot plug plants for between 47p and 55p, once again poor value compared with the price of seeds, according to the report.

Which? Gardening editor Ceri Thomas said: "£1.09 for a carrot is definitely not value for money. Carrot seed is really cheap to buy and very easy to grow – even for novice gardeners. Plug plants are a great option for slow-growing or tricky-to-raise crops, but we wouldn't recommend them for vegetables that can be easily grown from seeds. Plug plants for carrots and beetroot are a complete waste of money."

I must say that, personally, I would find it rather silly, at whatever price, to buy plug plants of carrot, beetroot and such, which are easy to grow, as Which? Gardening has pointed out.

On the other hand, if at the right price, cabbage plugs and such like, I would not pass up, even though I am a gardener and grow from seed, in general, raising my own plugs, on the windowsill even.

Cold frames, cloches, and many other greenhouse-like devices are available, often inexpensive even, such as the cold frame sold – presently again – by Lidl.

While I have had one of those I must say that – and it was my fault – a strong wind turned it over and destroyed it. Better anchoring next time.

Such cold frames and mini greenhouses and such can be used on patios and even balconies and be used thus to raise one's own plugs.

While, as said, bought plugs are handy and useful with some plants they certainly are not necessary and definitely not as far as carrots and beets are concerned.

I would recommend most gardeners, especially the novice ones and those with little time for thinning and such, to grow their plug plants indoors and in little cold frames and then transplant them out.

Presently Lidl also is selling propagator sets for the windowsill and greenhouse at a very reasonable price. In fact at a very tempting price. But I am not an agent for Lidl, before anyone thinks such thoughts.

Grow your own should mean, in my book, as far as possible to raise you own plants from seed, and ideally even from seed that you have kept from the previous year(s).

Using plug plants for things that you can as easily raise yourself and especially of vegetables such as carrots and beets is not a cost-effective way to go and you will not be helping you pocketbook at all.

On the other hand, buying tomato plugs and others – as long as the price is right – is a good way for the grow-your-own gardener who has little space or little time.

© 2010