Buy in Bulk - plant some now and some in Spring??

FinnJSeptember 3, 2013

Hi All,

Wanted to get some advice on buying in bulk and saving for next season. If I were to go ahead and purchase trees and plants in containers in bulk now from a local shop and put some of them in now and the remainder in the Spring, is that a good idea assuming I get a good price? The trees and plants are all hardy for the area, in containers and would be watered as needed.

Not sure if this idea makes sense to save money or if its too much of a hassle. What do nurseries do in the winter with all their stock?

If I'm unclear about anything, please ask and I hope to clarify.


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It is impossible to say if this is an advantageous course of action or not unless we know the plants involved. In colder climates, some plants are ideally planted in fall while others are best saved until spring. Plants left in containers will need their own sort of care over winter as well, as they tend to be significantly more vulnerable to cold damage. You might want to check with your regional forum to see what they suggest.

In my area, it makes little difference if you choose fall or spring planting times and nursery stock is available all winter long although typically not refreshed significantly until late winter (Feb/March). No big deals with "clearance sales" unless very seasonal stuff involved (like annuals or a few dormant perennials).

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 4:03PM
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Thanks for the reply. I'm not quite sure what plants I would even get at this point but I know my local nursery will have some stuff significantly marked down.

I'm in zone 6 and just not sure if anyone has done something like this in the past with success.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 6:31PM
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Generally, in places where ground freezes hard in the winter, nurseries drastically pare down their stock before the winter hits. Some things don't survive the winter in containers, while they might survive just fine in their otherwise normal growing conditions. If it were no greater problem to take care of stock in winter conditions, it would probably be the case that the garden centers would stock up and take advantage of lower cost plants and their more leisurely schedule. But they don't. It would be better, if one acquires stock in the fall, to go ahead and plant it all before the winter sets in. Or, just get the stock fresh in the springtime, and therefore avoid the greater amount of risk.

I've bought many a plant with the best intention of getting it in the ground in some sort of reasonable time, but being honest, must confess that I've taken many of them to death's door before digging a simple hole on their behalf! (There's always a good reason why not!) While these unfortunate creatures usually survive, it's not without a pointless setback. They would have been better off if I'd waited until being ready to plant.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 11:15PM
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Wow, Yardvaark could have written that last paragraph about me ... and probably a good many other gardeners on this site and off.

There are some great deals to be found this time of year, and this is a perfect time for planting: the ground is till warm enough to encourage root growth, but the sun's heat and intensity are waning, placing less stress on the plant.

If ... no, when ... I am forced to overwinter winter-hardy woody plants or herbaceous perennials in containers, in late fall I will usually sink the containers into a trench, backfill loosely, then cover the soil with shredded leaf mulch. Sometimes some late season event interferes with that procedure (like an oil spill in the koi pond, or Superstorm Sandy) and plants have overwintered in pots above ground here in my zone 7 garden with no adverse effects. I at least try to put them in a sheltered location and pile up some leaves (or even unshredded ones) around the pot for insulation.

The real issue is that the moisture level and especially the temperature level in the container "soil" will be much less stable than in the ground. Think of mild, sunny winter days, with the sun beating on those dark-colored nursery pots, followed by freezing nights. Anything you can do to minimize those fluctuations will lessen the stress on any plants you cannot plant this fall.

Bottom line: Planting right away would be best, as overwintering in containers can be done but does involve some risk - you will have to make that decision.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 11:59PM
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What they said. The reason nurseries give great deals in the fall is because they'd rather make a couple bucks on that plant than make nothing at the end of winter and have to pay an employee to move it to three different locations before it ends up in the dumpster or on the burn pile.

If the deals are just so awesome it hurts your soul to pass them up, do what I'm doing - buy to your heart's content and then hire a neighbor kid or two to help you get them in the ground ASAP.

What I've learned (granted, many folks are way more conscientious than I am) is that I have 10-14 days between when I pull a plant off my truck in my driveway and when it needs to be in the ground. Past that point, I will kill it from neglect.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 11:21AM
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