The most important part of choosing healthy plants is that you pick varieties that grow well in your local area.
I live in Zone 5, but that doesn’t stop the big box stores near me from stocking vegetable and flower varieties, and even trees, that will never properly grow in this area. They’re banking on the fact that you won’t research the best plants for your climate.
But smart gardeners know you have to go in with a plan!
Determine your gardening zone and from there, research the plant varieties that thrive in your climate. Stick to those varieties when choosing plants for your kitchen garden.
Where to get healthy plants for your kitchen garden
- You-pick farms
- Farmers markets
- Farm stands
Depending on the size of the place you’re buying from, they may sell a limited stock of only their tried and true favorite varieties. That can be awesome if you’re a new gardener and want to choose a vegetable you know will thrive. But if you want more unique varieties, you may need to ask around – or convince a local grower to order plants or seed start just for you!
Tip: Not all plants are created equal. When buying plants, I make sure they are organically grown from the very start. I’ve worked hard to curate my garden’s soil biome and I don’t want unknown toxins and chemicals seeping into my garden beds!
How to Know if a Plant is Healthy
To determine the health of a plant, but on your investigative glasses. There are several different aspects of a plant you can inspect to determine its health.
- Check the bottom of the pot to see if roots are emerging through the drainage hole. Double check that no roots are coming out the top of the soil. These are both signs that the plant has been potted too long, which increases the chance the plant won’t take in your garden.
- You also don’t want a freshly potted plant – the roots need a little time to settle and grow in their current pot before you rehome them in your garden.
- Look at the shape of the plant. Is it sturdy and compact? Or does the growth look stunted? Maybe it is leggy and uneven – remember, taller isn’t always better! If you really aren’t sure what a healthy plant should look like, you can always Google the exact variety you are considering in store and compare pictures to see if you have a healthy plant.
- If plants appear to have been pruned, it could be a sign of disease. Steer clear of freshly pruned plants.
- At first glance, does the plant look lush and vibrant?
- Inspect the leaves. Healthy plants have bright green leaves and even color. If the plant has yellow or brown leaves, avoid it as it may not be in optimal health .
- Check for pests on the underside of plant leaves. The last thing you want is to introduce an infestation in your garden!
- Avoid seedlings that are bearing fruit. It may be tempting to buy a tomato seedling that has baby tomatoes already starting, but tomato plants that are only one foot tall should not be fruiting yet. If any variety of plant fruits too early, you will never get an optimal harvest later in the season.
While I have been known to salvage some plants that are headed for the dumpster at the end of spring, I never rely on them for a consistent harvest. But if you have a vacancy in your garden and want to experiment with bringing a plant back to life, it is a great learning opportunity for how to approach caring for a stressed plant in the future. And I never pass up on a chance to learn more from my garden!
Healthy plants set you up for a better harvest.
Starting your garden out with healthy plants increases your success rate, and as much as gardening is about the journey, it’s about the harvest too. So set yourself up for a bountiful gardening season!
My DIY Garden-to-Table Mini Course walks you through every step of a successful garden season and includes my Garden Guidebook, a ton of DIY video tutorials, and garden-to-table recipes. Get your garden started now and you’ll be well on the way to a summer of growth!