SELECTING A HEALTHY PLANT FOR YOUR GARDEN AND HOUSE

The next step towards building your dream garden is choosing the right plants. As you enter the nursery or garden center, you look around at the various kinds of plant selection. You may know the kind of plant you are looking for, or you may just browse until you find the flower or plant that rings really attract you. That is usually the easiest way to shop for your garden plant. Now you must decide which specimen, out of the numerous plants, you want to take home with you. There are several aspects that you should consider in making your decision. The prettiest plant on the shelf is not necessarily the healthiest, nor the best buy.

Take a look at the general health of all of the plants in the nursery, not just of a particular variety. Unlike seasonal perennials and annuals, houseplants may reside in the nursery for a year or longer. During this time they may be exposed to many common houseplant pests. If you find mites, mealy bugs, or any other harmful insects anywhere in the houseplant department, they may have already infested the plant you like as well. In such circumstances its best not to purchase any plant from there. Better safe, than sorry.

After decided on the type of plant, choose about a half dozen of the healthiest looking plants, and set them off to the side. Then go back for a closer examination of the different parts of each plant, before making any decision. Look closely for insect pests and signs of disease.

Next check the roots. The roots provide the food for the plant, and are of the utmost importance. It is essential that there is a healthy, robust root ball, which fills, or nearly fills the pot. To check the condition of the root either you can ask the nursery man to remove the plant from the pot and show you or you can look at the drainage holes in the pot and get a pretty good idea of what is going on inside the pot. A few (but not too many) roots should be beginning to poke through the drain holes. These roots should not be dry or brittle. No roots should be showing above the surface of the soil.

The stems and trunks will determine the shape and fullness of the plant. The main stem(s) should be thick and healthy in appearance. The stems should be spaced evenly around the plant Look for abrasions, breaks or other stem damage, which may be slowly killing the plant. The leaves should appear to be strong and healthy, and the foliage color should be bright.

Flowering plants should have young, tight buds. It's nice to see the plant in full bloom, but if it is fully flowered now, you may not see it bloom in your garden until the following year. Some perennials and most annuals have an extended blooming period, so with these plants this is not a major concern, but should be considered.
Only after the site has been prepared, and the soil and conditioners mixed, watered well and settled should you test the pH of the soil. You can buy an inexpensive pH test kit at most nurseries, and many good garden centers will gladly test a soil sample for you. The best way to adjust pH is gradually, over several seasons. If the soil is excessively alkaline, you might be better off to build a raised bed using topsoil purchased from a nursery.

When you bring your plants home, allow them to adapt themselves in the new surroundings by placing them in the shade, and then gradually bring them into their proper lighting. Be sure to keep them well watered until they are ready to plant into the ground. It is best to plant them on a cloudy day.

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