On a recent trip to Lowes early in the month, I was confronted by a large display of berry plants strategically situated in the main aisle.  As a former retailer I was extremely impressed.  To say the least, the packaging cups were unique and a new ”invention”.  I was drawn to the

Raspberry cups

graphics which had top notch clarity with vibrant colors.  The shipping boxes were designed to convert to a point of purchase  display.  The product (plants)were tissue cultured and consistent sized.  All in all this product kit and its components were first rate.  I’m sure thousands of hours of design, testing and prototyping went into it and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins a “Product of the Year” award.

However as a grower and nursery owner, I was extremely dismayed to see this.  Not from a competition point of view but from the knowledge that probably every one of these plants will soon be dead.  The customer will have lost their money, but worse,  will be left with a bad taste in their mouth about growing and supplying their own food. 

Raspberry display

Often in the retail nursery world but especially in the big box arena,  it’s a race to see who can get the first sales of the year.  It’s all about product turns and dollars generated per square foot of selling space.  I receive copies of the trade journals for the Nursery industry and it is estimated that 25% of the vegetable plants and flowers purchased in the spring season will be repurchased since they were planted too soon and lost. 

Mind you I am not against the quality of these plants or their appearance.  My complaint is they are being promoted to an unsuspecting consumer to plant out now.  It is fully 2 months too early for these to be planted outdoors in Albuquerque and 3 months too early for the East Mountains.  To have a chance they would need to be babied indoors and repotted into a larger container. When the weather gets warm enough, they would need to be hardened off for at least a week.  This entails taking them outside on warm days, keeping in the shade, gradually exposing them to longer periods of direct sun and bringing them back in a night.  I notice that Lowes was keeping them indoors, not in the outer garden section.

A plant such as a raspberry can take -10 degree temperatures when fully dormant. However, it is most susceptible to damage or death from freezing when it just budding out new leaves.  These tiny, young plants are not near as tough as an older established plant (which is also susceptible to frosts).  At this point it can suffer damage at just a little below freezing and probable death at 25-29 degrees.  What are the chances we will see these temperatures before spring or the frost free season beginning?  I am not a real gambling man but I would wager about 100%.  Or to say it another way,  if you buy these plants and plant them out they will die! 

This is not the same as planting out bareroot stock which is still dormant.  We do not use greenhouses or force our plants in any way. They are grown here and come out on their own when Mother Nature tells them it is OK.  I know its tempting to want to get some green going after a bleak winter, but your patience will pay off in live plants that perform for you and in a monetary savings also, if you wait until the appropriate time.