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Compost for 99p, fruit trees for £1.99. Is there a catch?

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Kevin Smith Kevin Smith | 08:30 UK time, Sunday, 13 March 2011

cheap bedding plants

If you're anything like me, it's likely you've recently made an enormous shopping list of all the plants and seeds you need to buy over the coming weeks. It's one of my most favourite tasks of the gardening year and, being somewhat of a control freak, I like to split my list into sections - veg seeds, flower seeds, bulbs and tubers and perennials etc etc. You get the idea.

Of course writing the list isn't nearly as exciting as the shopping itself. I always aim to have a bit of a strategy, and I've dabbled in several different shopping approaches over the years including buying everything from one place regardless of cost, shopping around for bargains, buying from only local nurseries and trying and do everything online. I've yet to find the winning formula.

This year, things have been a bit different because I've been at home (rather than chained to a desk in a London office for eight hours a day), and I've had time to really investigate what's on offer. And do you know what? You can buy plants, seed, compost and no end of other garden gubbins from virtually anywhere. I am amazed. Supermarkets are the biggest eye opener, with certain chains of German origin offering bare-root trees and roses, seeds, plug plants, canes, compost, cold frames, string and tools - you name it, they've got it. They're all at it though, with better-known supermarkets of UK beginnings also getting in on the act. But it doesn't stop there - I've seen seeds and plants for sale in department stores, petrol stations, pet shops, markets, farm shops and DIY stores. There seems to be a lot of places to choose from these days.

cheap compost

The other thing that's struck me is how cheap everything is. I picked up a big bag of seed compost for just 99p yesterday, and have seen fruit trees for £1.99 and dahlias for just £1.29 - it's quite incredible.

But hang on a minute. What's the catch? Are all these 'pop-up-nurseries' worth buying from? Are the plants healthy and likely to grow? Where are things being imported from? Am I letting my local nurseries and growers down by giving into convenience and cheap prices? These are all things I consider when choosing to buy organic milk from the small shop at the top of my road over regular milk from a supermarket giant, so why should it be any different with plants?

Of course I, like many others, couldn't resist the cheap seed compost and I've picked up a few other bits and bobs from here and there (all in aid of consumer research, you understand) to see how they perform over the coming months. I'll still buy from my favourite nursery, too as they grow certain plants I know I'll never find on the high street, but it will be interesting to see what does the best. Perhaps my 99p seed compost will be rubbish and I'll end up with no plants to grow on at all - that'll teach me.

Do you think my 99p seed compost will be effective? What's your experience of cheap plants and compost? Have you had any luck?


  • Comment number 1.

    Well, here in Hungary cheap seeds are really good (10p a pack)and the compost quality excellet too. I have a beautiful vegetable garden every year... but true, we have more sunshine, less rain :)

  • Comment number 2.

    Ah Lunia, that's my problem - rubbish British weather! It's obviously got nothing to do with the compost and seeds I buy!

  • Comment number 3.

    I buy regularly from Aldi and Lidl plus Wilkinson's and Poundland and had no problems with their gardening stuff.

  • Comment number 4.

    'Met someone at a party on Saturday night, who always buys her seeds from a well known (and I think) tad pricey on-line shop. Not many seeds per packet, lovely packaging, that sort of thing. Why pay the extra? 'Well, I think they make really good selections & the seeds & plants always do well' she said - she happily buys the expertise - it gives her confidence. Perhaps if you are confident already, you should buy from Lidl. Or poor.

  • Comment number 5.

    This is not a new idea though it is getting more widespread - many of the large Eucalyptus trees we see today are a result of purchases from Woolworths many years ago. Any purchases I have made from the shops you mention have been successful.The tomato and sweetpea seeds I bought this year have already germinated.I am particularly looking forward to seeing if I can grow the foxtail lilies I impulse bought...never grown them before but the price was so reasonable and the roots so healthy I couldn't resist.

  • Comment number 6.

    I bought an orchid that flowered its socks off for £5. But a cherry tree just died, so wasting my £6.99. Or so I thought until I carted the whole thing(looking very neglected because dead) back to Lidl. No questions asked, a full refund!


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