Nothing is as maddening as discovering the perfect plant in a garden catalog only to find that it has already sold out when you try to order. If that has happened to you, then you’ve already learned the lesson of ordering early. January through May is when companies receive the most orders, with the new and popular plants going fast, so order as soon as possible.
Some tips for ordering.
Know the length of the growing season and the planting zone in your area. Our growing season is approximately 155 days. Days to maturity are usually listed in parenthesis at the end of the plant description and are only a guideline, as weather, light, moisture and soil temperature all play a part.
Hybrid tomatoes should have one or more of these abbreviations, VTFN, next to the named variety. This tells you that it has been bred to be resistant to a certain disease. V means verticillium wilt, T is tobacco mosaic virus, F is fusarium wilt and N is a root–knot nematode. Verticillium wilt is probably the most common of those diseases in this area.
Pay attention to the cultural requirements. A plant requiring full sun needs at least 6 hours of sun a day. Partial shade, about 4 hours of morning sun and shade typically means just that. Plant accordingly.
Soil types and moisture requirements are another consideration. The soil is alkaline in most areas. Watch pH requirements.
Is there a substitution policy? If the company has run out of what you ordered, they may substitute a similar plant. If you don’t want a substitution, tell them up front.
Consider the number of seeds that are offered for the variety you’re ordering. Sometimes it’s remarkably few which can make the seed packet pretty darned expensive. While some companies charge a flat rate for shipping and handling others will base their shipping charges on the amount of your order. It never hurts to comparison shop.
Just in case you order live plants, know the delivery date so you can have a plan for when they arrive. Most live plants are shipped at planting time. They will need to be unpacked right away. Don’t freak out. They will probably look dead but only because it’s much easier on the plants to be shipped while they’re dormant, so they’re not dead, they’re sleeping. If there is plastic wrapped around them, remove it so air can circulate, but keep the roots moist at all times. Potted plants should be watered if they’re dry and put where they get decent light. Plant into your garden as soon as possible.
Finally, keep a record of your order. It will be most helpful if there is a problem with your order. Put the copy in your garden file and next year you can pat yourself on the back when you won’t have to guess about what or how much you ordered. And last, keep your list reasonable. (I’m snickering right now…).