POUND RIDGE, N.Y. (AP) -- I like to grow vegetables from seed, but this year a trip to France beckoned. Who can blame me if my garden takes a back seat to April in Paris?
Forsaking the seed, I'd have to start much of the garden with plants when I returned home.
But there was a lesson in it, for I saw how dramatically the nursery business has expanded to serve the needs of gardeners pressed for time. Many more varieties of ready-to-go plants are available than once was the case. Also, plants are obtainable by mail from seedhouses or companies that feature just that.
Naturally, I lost the multiplicity of varieties available from seed and the gardener's pleasure of seeing the seeds germinate and of nurturing the seedlings until they're ready to transplant.
My trip occurred just at the time when I usually sow tomatoes and other tender vegetables indoors for transplanting to the garden in the warm soil of late May and early June. Now I would have to shop for plants ready to put in at that time.
Looking around the neighborhood, I found a nursery that offered Brandywine, an heirloom variety, and also Celebrity, two tomatoes that I fancy. Also, I liked the fact that this nursery grew its own tomatoes and other veggies and was not just a showcase for plants produced elsewhere.
Turning to catalogs, I saw that more and more of them are now offering plants as well as seeds.
Shepherd's Garden Seeds, for example, has just begun this year to ship five varieties each of tomatoes, peppers and basil to be sent between April 15 and May 15, depending on the gardener's USDA hardiness zone. The firm (30 Irene St., Torrington, Conn., 06790, Tel. 860-482-3638, www.shepherdseeds.com) sends the plants in four-inch-deep by three-inch-square pots wrapped in cardboard sleeves to minimize damage.
Tomatoes and peppers are priced at three for $9.95 and six for $17.95; the basil at three for $8.95 and six for $15.95. Among the tomatoes is Carmello, prized by many as the finest all-around tomato.
The venerable seedhouse of Burpee is featuring some plants under the slogan, ''We'll take care of the seeds so you can take care of the plants.'' Besides individual plants, it offers what it calls ''a complete vegetable plant garden'' consisting of sweet pepper, eggplant, okra, hot pepper and two tomatoes, cherry-sized and regular. The box of 36 plants, six each of the varieties, comes at $59.50 from W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Warminster, Pa., 18974, Tel. 800-888-1447, www.burpee.com. A box of 24 plants of four tomato varieties comes at $39.95. All told I counted 27 tomato varieties available as plants at prices ranging from $12.95 to $14.95 for six.
Harris Seeds, another well-known seedhouse, is offering numerous tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, parsley, oregano and thyme plants in sets of five and ten and in collections. For example, a collection of five different heirloom tomato plants -- Mr. Stripey, Brandywine, Yellow Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Orange Oxheart -- comes at $6.95 from Harris Seeds, 60 Saginaw Dr., P.O. Box 22960, Rochester, N.Y., 14692, Tel. 800-514-4441, www.harrisseeds.com. The same price gets a sweet bell pepper collection, a hot pepper mix or an eggplant collection.
For such veggies as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, leeks, and lettuce, the Piedmont Plant Company, P.O. Box 424, Albany, Ga., 31702, Tel. 800-541-5185, www.piedmontplants.com, ships them out bareroot to reach you at the right time for transplanting in your climate.
I liked the offering of a dwarf broccoli called Small Miracle that grows only a foot tall and can be spaced just eight inches apart. A bundle of 12 costs $7.95. The same price gets 12 Buttercrunch lettuce plants. The firm also offers tomatoes, peppers eggplant, chives, garlic, shallots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collards, kohlrabi, radicchio, rhubarb, horseradish and asparagus roots.
Leafing through the catalogs, I didn't see any corn or bean offerings as plants. But I plan to be back from Paris in good time to plant them from seed.
EDITOR'S NOTE: George Bria retired from the AP in 1981 after 40 years that included coverage of World War II from Italy.
End advance for Thursday, April 20
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.