Sick of Bonnie vegetable starts

Home Depot and many other stores have supported the Bonnie starter plant cartel in the last few years so they can charge customers for single plants instead of selling them in 4 or 6-packs which really drives up the price of vegetable gardening if you like using starts. They tend to charge about the same money for a single plant as for 4-6 which I find pretty annoying.

I start all my pepper, tomato and a few other plants but really don’t have room or time for more. I was pleased to find that Agway carries the good old 6-packs at a fair price, so I got my collard, basil and broc plants as well as a few boxes of annual flowers I like, such as red Salvia to attract the hummers.

I’d stopped there to try to purchase a 40 pound bag of urea, but some farmer had bought all 30 bags they had available. That is another item you can’t buy from big box stores, which will charge you about 4X as much money to get urea in some form of lawn fertilizer with a little K in it and much less N.


This is exactly what drove me to start growing tomatoes and peppers from seed. I noticed the prices went way up and the 6 packs disappeared a couple years ago.

The Ag department in the local high school has a greenhouse and they started selling starts every spring. They’re way more reasonably priced than the big box stores, and better looking plants to boot.


I was lucky this year- I was able to buy kale and spinach in four packs that actually had eight plants in them. I quit doing my own starts because I had limited space and I was making a mess of it. I heard about it … :slight_smile: And, I like to get a few of this, a couple of that, and bits of other things. Nurseries make that pretty easy.


All 6 of the Collard plants I bought from Lowes bolted this year. I had lost the collards I started when my chickens got out. I should have know not to buy veggies from a cart inside a store. They look so healthy and big when you buy them, but don’t seem to transition well into the soil. I had the buttoning problem with store bought broccoli several times in the past also. Better off starting them yourself.

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This made it obvious their target audience was not “farmers”. At least they were in four packs :wink:


The HD in my town barely makes the pretense of being a nursery. At least the Lowe’s makes the attempt ( not very well). Basically, they are highly reluctant to sell any low markup item. Bags of urea? Don’t make me laugh.

I finally started starting my own tomatoes. I’m not particularly good at it, but the thing is, once you get the protocol down you have it down. I have plenty for next to nothing.


I only buy tomatoes and peppers as transplants anymore. I’ve started them from seed before and still do if I want a particular variety that never shows up. a few farm stores carry a brand called “Red dirt” and they are usually about $1 for a plant in a 4" pot. I’ll get them the day they show up and keep them in the greenhouse until it’s warm enough.

A good pro-mix potting soil and fertilizer are the main key- that and not letting them dry out too much, but not sogging them either. I now pre-mix in a 90 day encapsulated complete fertilizer with the pot. s. because it’s easier than using a quick release liquid. I don’t go organic until my plants go into the soil (my urine and home-made compost). By then the fertilizer is almost used up.

Of course, HD doesn’t carry the nice 3.8 cubic ft compressed bales, which wind up saving money over the loose stuff, but at least they now carry a reasonably good version of the loose.

Agway carries the bales. (I swear they aren’t paying me to promote them). In the NE there are a lot of Agway outlets and they deliver large orders.

When I move my tomatoes into bigger pots I add some of my compost with the mix and press a layer really tight to the bottom of the pot- then I set the pots into large trays with mix and compost that is heavier- a bit too heavy to be a good potting soil- but some root goes into that mix so plants don’t suffer if I don’t water for a couple days. I drill holes in the bottom of the plastic cement mixing trays I use. This is in my unheated green-house.

My pepper and tomatoes are always in great shape when they go into the ground, with usually small green fruit already formed. This leads to double the productivity over the course of a season by my casual reckoning.

I’m just trying to get similar productivity in NY that I used to get in CA.


That corn at $4 is well beyond ridiculous. A few plants by themselves often don’t pollinate well. And corn doesn’t do that well transplanted.


I paid less than that for a packet of 150 seeds, and if you buy more it’s is discounted heavily…
. I tried a 12x5 plot and it worked OK. It’s as small as one should go! I’m growing American Dream this year.

I don’t buy starts of anything. All my veggies are from seed. I don’t grow that many things, but everything can be grown from seed.


I believe Bonnie is owned by the Canadian corporation Agrium.

I posted that corn picture on the FB group Appalachian Americans. My caption there was “I don’t think their target market is any of you who have planted and hoed an acre of corn before” :slight_smile:

There were multiple comments about fathers and grandfathers turning over in their graves. One person said they could get a dozen ears at the farmer’s market for that price. Heh…

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I don’t buy many vegetable starts, except really tomatoes (which of course aren’t really a vegetable. It also frustrates me that retail outlets don’t sell many 4 or 6 packs. I don’t plant very many tomato plants, commercially speaking. Only b/t 150 to 200.

This year I paid more than I ever have, at $2 per plant. It was expensive, but I felt like I got something for the value, since they were grafted plants.

It doesn’t take very many tomatoes to sell to make up the $2, but I’ll with hold judgement until they start producing.

Those corn starts are pretty sad. Here I worry about over charging anyone the least little bit for my produce, and stores like that are completely ripping customers a new one.


I’ve been seeing corn starts for years and it never ceases to amuse. I actually do start corn in containers, although this year I made the mistake of starting it in individual little plastic 6-packs, which is really silly, it increases both starting and transplanting time.

It’s best for me to start them in a single container of potting mix and after about 2 weeks, float it in water and pull the plants out to line up at the exact spacing I want them. This way early planted corn doesn’t rot in cool wet weather and chipmunks don’t take my seed. I can also plant it in woven fabric and vastly reduce weeding while getting the soil to heat up earlier.

Contrary to another comment here, I find corn transplants just fine. When I get the potting soil as wet as can be I can pull them free without losing root. Corn is about the easiest thing I grow- a perfect first crop for kids.


You had me all ready to check one out and when I searched online the closest one is about 40 minutes away. There is another in a different direction which is almost 50 minutes away. I guess my area doesn’t have enough farmers for them to setup here.

I get my tomato starts from Vaiuso farms in Branford. It’s also too far from me, but it’s close for my parents, so they stop by on their way over and pick up some tomato plants for me. They haven’t gotten any yet this year, but from what I remember last year, it was just under $1 each for the small ones and $3-4 for the larger plants. I think they had 15-20 varieties too.

Last week I paid $4 for a Bonnie eggplant that was in good shape. None of the “real” nurseries here have eggplant ready yet since it really is too early for them to go into the ground. I have it in the ground with a makeshift greenhouse on top. It’s good for doing that, but I wouldn’t plant my whole garden with Bonnie plants.

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This spring I saw 5 gallon pot of… creeping phlox in HD! 5 gallons!!! Who the heck going to buy this?


I honestly don’t buy plants from chain stores that much anymore. I picked up a bay laurel (noticed severe scale problems when I got home, currently quarantined and being treated) and hot peppers that were about to bloom, but the vegetables and herbs that were out were otherwise pretty pathetic looking or just very weird choices. Way better selection in online seed stores, just have to start them early.

I will say this - the small local nursery has a much better fruit tree and native perennial selection now. Blows the chain stores out of the water.

Anyone else use coconut coir + compost as a seed starting mix/potting mix? I had pretty good results with zucchini and melons so far.


If you are looking for 50# bags of urea, there used to be a company called Lesco that sells lawn care and nursery products. They are now a company called Siteone and have stores in most large metro areas, especially on the east coast. Specialize in growers and applicators…you.

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I’m surprised you put that much effort into corn. I like good sweetcorn but it’s not worth that much effort to me. When it comes to corn I’m used to thinking in terms of seeds per acre and hundreds of acres.

As a kid in college I spent summers harvesting sweetcorn for Green Giant. I ran the biggest harvester they had, 8 rows. I got paid by the hour and a bonus for each load. A load was about 5 tons. They had many hundreds if not thousands of acres planted to spread the harvest over two months. It was all canned.