Big Box Garden Center Replacement Guide

Seaofgreen2_2Before I say anything about where to get plants for the garden, I've got two things to say.

First, if you can, plant seeds and grow your own plants. It's cheaper, more fun, and you have a lot more varieties to choose from. I should clarify that it's cheaper if you don't buy a greenhouse, and compulsively buy seeds and garden supplies, and kill half your plant starts, and dig up your whole lawn and have to buy 10 yards of manure, etc, like some people I know. It's not too late to start seeds.

Second, whatever you do, no matter how warm it is during the day, no matter what the weather report says, DO NOT plant that luscious green, miracle gro pumped up tomato plant until June 1. Our traditional last freeze date in Spokane is May 15, but for warm weather plants like tomatoes it's all about evening temps. It can be 90 degrees during the day but if it's in the 40's at night, your plants will stall out and take a long time to break out of their stupor. Once they start growing they like to keep growing. Same goes for melons and squash. The joke is that garden centers sell the big tomato plants in April because they know you'll be back to get some more when you kill off the first round. Local tribal knowledge says don't plant anything until Mica Peak is cleared of snow, but that may not be until July this year, so I'd go with the June 1 date.

So onto local garden centers. Let me say I've got nothing against the big box stores. The folks at Home Depot have been very generous to my church, as has the Costco funded College Success Foundation. So nothing against the big stores, but there are plenty of great local greenhouses and garden centers that I'd rather support.

Northwest Seed & Pet (NWSP) is at the top of my list. They get most of their plants from Creach & Upriver, two local greenhouses. They also have a great supply of seed potatoes. Get them and plant them ASAP. They also have a fine selection of grapes, raspberries, strawberries, even gooseberries and. These are all bare root stock so if you're going to plant them do it soon before it get's hot. NWSP also carries a lot of garden supplies that are local. I must be one of the few people that has shopped around for manure. Big R carries manure from Boise, ID, whereas NWSP has some from Longview, WA. And who said the local movement is like the "finer things" club from The Office.

I spoke with the owner who has worked there for over 27 years, and he said that business has been tough the last couple of years. This is where I'm supposed to bad mouth the big box stores and talk about how they're running everyone out of business with their plants from Texas, but I just said I've got nothing against them. I might have to rethink that one. Support NWSP. It's a Spokane institution. Where else can you shop with purple chickens roaming the floor and a 6 foot aligator to amuse the kids while you decide which seeds to buy? I recommend the original Sprague location.

Greenacres Nursery is also up top for me for larger landscape plants and trees. They are locally owned and have two locations. One on Appleway linked above and another with bigger trees and plants in Otis Orchards. They do a lot of wholesale business so you'll probably be rubbing shoulders with lanscape business folks when you shop there. They do sell retail at both locations.

GEM Garden & Greenhouse: See my post on Seed Starting Tips for information on GEM. Bruce has his own varietal of Early Girl tomatoes that are less acidic than the usuals. He also has the best and cheapest geraniums in town. Get there quick, he sells out early. One tip is that you can fill a tray and buy it, and leave it there to stay safely tucked away in the greenhouse for when it warms up. Bruce will dutifully water and fertilize it for you. When you get there be bold and wander on back and yell out for Bruce. He's always lurking somewhere around there.

Herb Garden & Greenhouse is another favorite. Patricia has a unique variety of herbs and vegetable starts. During the Spring you can go straight to the source and buy from her at her greenhouses in the Pasadena Park neighborhood or meet her at the Millwood or Liberty Lake Farmers' Markets.

That's my list. What about yours? What other local garden centers and greenhouses are out there?