Home Depot's Tomato Plants

mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)April 3, 2010

While DH and I were at Home Depot today I couldn't help cruising through the garden area. Surprise, surprise! There were a couple racks devoted to tomato plants. Unfortunately, every plant was a soggy, slimy, thawed-out mess of what used to be a tomato plant.

Our average last frost date is ~May 20 (though sometime in early June is much safer). I suppose the stores start getting requests early and don't want to disappoint customers. On the other hand, how many people bought tomato plants (thinking if the store was selling them, it must be time to plant them) who now have a similar sad little mess in their garden?

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Yes, why would anyone have tomatoes on display in early April in Wyoming? I put out 4 leftovers I had yesterday after potting up and they immediately croaked. They'll make money I suppose.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 8:22PM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

I guess you're right; they'll make money. It seems short-sighted, though. It discourages so many people (IMO anyway). It looks like you might be in the general area. Maybe you've heard the same complaint: "I can't grow anything here." Sometimes people add that they only can grow lettuce or radishes or some such thing.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 9:56PM
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Around here I start seeing them at stores as early as late February or early March, but so far I haven't seen any lost to the frost. Our grocery store has some that were damaged from lack of water...some wilted dried up leaves. But I think we're pretty much frost-free now, but still I'm not planting out till late April.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 11:28PM
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Yeah, here in TN, father-in-law put his out yesterday. It is beginning to look like we're done with any late frosts... spring came a little early.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 12:21AM
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taz6122(N.W. AR.6b)

Don't count those chickens yet! I've been tempted, but if I plant, it will freeze.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 7:55AM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

I'm so envious of all of you whose gardens are already planted!

I've been tempted, but if I plant, it will freeze.

That's about the size of it here. It was 27 degrees when I first looked this morning, but that wasn't until about 8:30. The lows for the 10-day forecast are 27 to 35. I do have hopes of planting out the lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach in two to three weeks. The transplants have been spending time outside for the last several days, but no tomatoes! I might try a few under Culligan water bottles in early May, though.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 11:24AM
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Yeah I find this confusing too. It doesn't help that I'm new to this area, I recently moved from South Florida Zone 10 to the Chicago suburbs, zone 5! So I feel lost already. Last week I found tomato plants at both Home Depot and Kmart! Seeing them for sale really makes me antsy to plant, but I know it's too early! It got up into the 80's last week too which is fantastic but makes the itch to get out and plant hard to resist.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 12:23PM
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These big box stores really should put a horticulturist on the buying staff for their garden department. For instance they sell Cherry trees in the southern California stores, and there is no way we will ever get enough chilling hours for the varieties they sell. Same with many other fruit trees that need 600+ hours of chilling while we normally only get around 350 or 400 hours. And why do they sell tasteless varieties of tomatoes when it just as easy for a grower to grow a good variety, maybe the seeds might cost two cents more per seed in large quantities. In fact hybrid seeds generally cost more than heirloom seeds. Same with the seed varieties on their seed racks. Why don't they go through some taste test lists before selecting what they will sell.
And if you ask the cashier in the garden department a question the typical answer is I have no idea.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 4:20PM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

That sounds like a huge gardening change gin_gin. I know what you mean about resisting the urge to plant. I prepped a tomato bed this afternoon instead. DH and I got a pickup load of old sheep manure/bedding a couple weeks ago. I worked some of that in and used the tomato cages to fence the dogs out :)

Californian - I find it interesting that if I have a plumbing or wiring or other question along those lines, the person manning that particular department usually is really helpful. Like you said, though, don't even think about asking a question in the gardening section. Weird.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 9:49PM
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I went to Lowe's a couple weeks ago for some fencing material. I went out in the garden center and there was snow all over everything. I don't buy plants at the big box stores, but seeing that carnage made me cringe. I asked the guy working there why they didn't cover the stuff up or take it in. He said that somebody was supposed to, but it didn't get done.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 11:47PM
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Probably they got all mixed up and did not know anything about
"last Frost Date" in Wyoming. lol

At any rate, it is up to us to buy, when to buy or not to buy.
On the other hand, one might opt to buy small seedling, cheap and
bring home, take care of it for a while. Then when the time comes he/she will have a plant instead of seedling.
That is a positive view.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 2:20AM
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bluemater(z5 IL)

I wouldn't buy from the big boxes -- remember last year's scourge of late blight? Well it came from a supplier to the big boxes, that sent out thousands of infected plants so DON'T BUY PLANTS FROM BIG BOX STORES! Either grow your own or get them from a local nursery...

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 11:27AM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

I bought a few six packs of tomatoes at Home Depot because the local nursery didn't have any. They were holding back until a more optimum planting time.

I potted them up to five inch pots and they looked real good after a couple of weeks. I was thankful that they had early plants available when the local nurseries did not.

It's best to get them as soon as they come in at the box stores because they still look good. If you wait too long they may show signs of stress.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 11:34AM
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larry_c(z6 Stl. Mo.)

Home Depot has 6 tom's from Bonnie Plants for $ 3.75/6 pack. I bought seeds and will be a couple of weeks late :) The prices are getting crazy. I intend to direct sow two plants and see if they are any faster than the transplants.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 10:08PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I saw a cauliflower plant - it was a good sized plant in one of those plant the pot peat pots. It was three something for one plant. I can't imagine anyone paying that much for one head of cauliflower. When customers are successful, they will continue to garden. It is bad business to take advantage of someone who knows nothing of gardening. They are selling Bing cherries here; someone may be able to grow them but sweet cherries are hard to grow in this area. Pie cherries do well here but they didn't have any of those. I am not naming the box store because I do buy there.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 11:03PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

Last year a friend of mine brought tomato plants from a Walmart, she spent about $50 because she is diabetic and eats them like candy, it cost her a fortune in toms every week, (she shops at whole foods! nuf said!) so she thought it a worth while investment, but like the OP pointed out they where selling them far to early, and they all got killed in a frost, undeterred, she ordered from Burpee?? I think? more plants, this time with post and packing she spent nearly $100, they where duely delivered on an extremely hot day, when she was at work and got cooked in the boxes!(not the sellers fault) she then ordered from a seller on e-bay and got hit by late blight! she came to my house after this 3rd failure and saw my plants, it was my first garden, and first time with seed starting toms, but not my first attempt with growing toms.
I made mistakes and I can't really remember how many plants I started, I estimate over 40 I ended up with 10, which went on to produced amazingly well, outlay about $4 on seed (still had some left this year) and say $8 on the potting mix (mistake No,1, got damping off! live and learn)
she phoned me on Friday to ask me to start plants for her :-), we ended up laughing cos it sounded like a TV program drugs deal, what you got? how many do you need? when can i pick them up?
I think that most people who are starting a garden will attempt a couple of time before giving up blaming themselves, and the store's know this, then next year the person will attempt again..
and as helenh pointed out some of the prices for plants cost more than buying the actual veg!
I don't buy in Walmart, not that I haven't tried, the last 5 or 6 times I've been, the line's to pay where so long, I walked out! haven't been back for months!
this year I planted 72 plants and have 60 that germinated, and are growing well, started 6 weeks ago under lights in a cool room, so they are only about 2 inches tall after re-potting to their true leave level, nice and stocky, I am well proud of myself, and credit where credit is due it down to reading the posts on this forum, so thank you Ladies and Gentlemen of the forum :-)

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 12:30AM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

Thanks for the nice, positive view Cyrus and Zeuspaul. If I foul up all my seedlings, I'll be glad to have a back-up plan.

Bluemater - I didn't think about it from the disease aspect. With regard to buying from local nurseries, unfortunately, most (possibly all) of the ones in Cheyenne don't grow their own either. There's one just a couple blocks from us. Can you imagine how dangerous that would be? Turns out, not very. They have fabulous greenhouse space and don't grow a thing. The owner said he can't afford the energy bill.

$3.75 for a six-pack Larry? I had no idea. A woman here said she'd like some of my extra tom plants for $2 each. If she runs into the deal you found, I guess I won't worry about her following through with mine :)

It's funny how Helen's story is nearly the opposite. $3+ for a cauliflower plant! The same woman who said she'd like tomato plants asked for broccoli plants that I quoted at $0.50 each. My so-called business plan is completely upside-down. hehehe We get the same type of fruit tree selection here. Popular, recognizable names with no change or producing and sometimes no chance of surviving. Similar to what Californian mentioned.

we ended up laughing cos it sounded like a TV program drugs deal, what you got? how many do you need? when can i pick them up?

OMG Heather. That's so true! LOL! Good job on your plants this year. And how very good of you to share with your neighbor.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 9:53AM
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was at ace hardware yesterday and they had some very nice mater plants / i had good luck last year with the chef jeff plants they sell there / heck they even had brandywines and cherokees

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 10:06AM
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star_stuff(Greensboro NC 7a)

I got this Big Beef (left) from Lowe's at the end of March. So far so good, it has been outside in the super warm weather. Last year my Sweet 100 and Husky Cherry Red were both from Walmart, and no problems. Big boxes are definitely convenient if you need to fill a spot quickly, or if you need to replace a plant.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 5:54PM
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"I wouldn't buy from the big boxes -- remember last year's scourge of late blight? Well it came from a supplier to the big boxes, that sent out thousands of infected plants so DON'T BUY PLANTS FROM BIG BOX STORES!"

I thought it was unusual weather conditions that promoted the growth of those spores.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 6:39PM
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I woul blame the weather also.
Most fungi are air-born and waiting for a friendly environment.
If you have a damp basement, no air circulation, you will have mold.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 8:09PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

I found it suspicious as well that Home Depot was selling tomato plants here in Central Kentucky.. and the fact most were all bought! Like one plant in a tray.. the rest sold out. Crazy! It's also crazy we are getting 80 degree weather in April. I'm scared for an April freeze and so much will be decimated. My Japanese maples are leafing in full bloom. It's hard to trust mother nature this month.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 11:20PM
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chinamigarden(z5 MI)

If I need to buy a plant, maybe to replace a seedling that didn't make it, or to add something that I didn't buy from seed. I will buy my plants as early as possible. Its my way of ensuring I get the best of what they have, in variety, health and vigor. Then they go under the lights with the rest of my seedlings and get planted with the rest.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 5:52PM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

I stopped by again last night for more potting mix, and the "carnage" (good word euarto_gullible) was still there. A clerk once told me the stores turn the dead plants in for credit, so I suppose Home Depot is holding the bodies for evidence.

That looks like a nice, stocky Big Beef star_stuff.

80 degrees bencjedi? Sounds wonderful. We just had another winter storm warning expire this morning, and it's spitting snow again this evening. We're supposed to see 54 degrees tomorrow, though. I'm glad to be in a warmer part of Wyoming :)

It sounds like the people here who buy from the big-box stores are all pretty savvy about how and why to do it.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 9:44PM
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Sure enough we got down to 28 degrees last night. I was in Home Depot today to pick up something and thought I'd check on the tomatoes. Sure enough they all looked damaged. I guess they couldn't be bothered to push the wheeled cart they're on into their warmer greenhouse type room over night.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 1:21AM
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While you are thinking of buying tomato plants from any of
the big box stores, think back to last year's devastating
occurrence of late blight in the northeast U.S. The
agricultural extension services are now saying that one of
the reasons for this epidemic was distribution of diseased
plants through one or more of the big box chains. They
are very careful to not reveal just which companies are
culpable but it seems clear that the research has been
done and the fact established. Of course, weather was a
factor too but it still needed a source of infection
and 2009's source of infection was extremely widespread.

For reference, I saw this on MAssachusetts' extension
web pages.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 11:56AM
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Edie(5 NY (Finger Lakes))

I've bought herbs from big box stores and supermarkets. They grew very well for me, except the sage that drowned when the garden flooded.

In my experience, ALL of these stores put out plants too early. But then, they also have inflatable snowmen on display before Halloween. It's a matter of being the first to provide what the customer wants. If a customer wants to be the first in their neighborhood with tomatoes planted, and is buying transplants, that person will buy from whichever store has them in stock earliest. Never mind how foolish this is. Stores are in business to make a profit, not to educate. Caveat emptor, and do some research before you buy.

That said, I would not buy tomatoes from a big box store this year. The official word from the Cornell Extension is that "Big box Store tomatoes were a major cause of the LB epidemic last year." You can gamble on them if you want, and you may get healthy plants, but check them very very carefully.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cornell's Late Blight page

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 1:16PM
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star_stuff(Greensboro NC 7a)

Thanks mrs. b! The Big Beef is now siting happy in that larger black pot that the Husky was in, pictured. Soon it will be planted in its large permanent container whenever I get motivated LOL. Luckily, with our record warm temps, I haven't had to bring any tomato plants inside, plus our frost date has past. The tomato plants have been holding up at the big boxes around here, fortunately.

I'm sure that was a sad sight at Home Depot, gin_gin. Especially if the plants were already on wheeled racks. They certainly could have wheeled them inside, or at the very least, thrown a cover over them. I'm sure they have some sort of cover, I mean come on it's Home Depot, they sell everything...

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 6:02PM
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After losing all my plants to late blight last year, I really hope none of my neighbors goes to Home Depot or Walmart for their tomato plants this year...

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 4:08PM
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HD is carrying heirlooms by Bonnie in eat pots.
I took a chance n picked up a Black Prince w 4 plants in the pot.


Small but fresh & healthy.

I wanted a small earlier black but am concerned that its heritage will make it just good for really early or late planting. Anyway I hope it grows tasty maters.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 4:52AM
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The Home Depot (and others) contracts with plant suppliers who send out per their requirements. Either the plant suppliers were over eager or the contract doesn't take into account the ag zones, Mississippi probably got the same shipment!lol. Also the stores aren't responsible for plants they don't sell, the grower simply takes them back. That's why you see non home depot employees in the mornings watering the plants. So when a disease makes its way across country its the grower causing the proliferation. HD employees are only trained to run the registers and unload the trailers! Rockledge Gardens however has real educated plant people, horticulturists and agronomists etc. Link provided.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rockledge Gardens

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 10:04AM
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Our Home Depot has very healthy looking plants. I went there the other day and got a pinapple sage and oregano. (had lost my oregano seedlings). Went right after to the local nursery and the seedlings looked horrible. Unhealthy and no variety compared to HD.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 1:35PM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

We stopped off at Home Depot again last night for plumbing parts. The Bonnie delivery truck was there, and the racks had all new tomatoes on them again. Hopefully, this batch will fare better than the last did. We're still more than a month from a reasonably safe last frost date.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 11:27PM
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The Black prince still looks great n healty. I am thinking its best to pot it up to a gal rather than into the garden where the sun at this time isn't great. One concern on my HD Bonnie plant is the peat pot was wet & its got a white fungus on it.
They say to plant the pot but /i think its wise to remove the compromised peat pot or should I return it?
I hate to think that I will bring disease into my garden.
The peat pot has white patches on it & I assume they are from being wet.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 1:24AM
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sunsi(z5 NY)

I told my hubby when I saw tomato plants out so early in our zone 5 upstate New York area what a great way for stores to make extra money. When it's unseasonably warm (it was in the 70's that day) some people will buy the tomato plants and when the plants die these people will be back to buy more. Or am I being too jaded in my thinking, heh.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2010 at 2:01AM
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Reading all the negatives about Home Depot, I have to say
I am thrilled that they are among the few that are early.
I am now (Jan.) harvesting tomatoes from my hoophouse and
have about 20 going. I have lost none. My only complaint
is that our HD carries no heirlooms, but I have 480 seedling
planted which are all heirlooms. Back to HD, all the plants
in our local store seem very healthy and cared for. Both
Lowes and Walmart are a different story though. Love this

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 11:27PM
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I've bought decent transplants in Home Depot and Lowe's, with a few caveats ...

I'd say the burden is definitely on the grower to know appropriate planting times. I live in zone 10a, with a winter growing season, but the big box stores stock tomatoes all year. Anyone who plants a tomato in April where I live is begging for a disaster. And the staff is no help.

It's also up to us to pick the good plants. It's hit or miss as far as health is concerned. Sometimes the plants are in great shape, and sometimes they're old, already in heavy bloom and setting fruit, and underwatered. You know, buyer beware.

But still ... I'm usually happy to see racks of tomato plants in big box stores. That's how most people get started�they're walking through the store, see a tomato plant and think, "Hey, I'd like to try that." And thus begins the journey of a thousand varieties.

Here is a link that might be useful: Growing Tomatoes in South Florida

    Bookmark   January 17, 2011 at 8:25AM
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LOL, after giving HD a rather glowing review, I got a bag of
potting soil that was a tree trimmer's donation of chips
a few days ago. How they could call it potting soil just
boggles my mind. BTW, our HD had a little shriveled up
lady that knew more about horticulture than most universitys.
She was worth triple what they pay others in that dept. but
has been missing for about two months now. Sad.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 12:16AM
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