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Big-box stores, Lowes, Walmart, Home-Depot, etc.  RSS feed

 
Blake Wheeler
Posts: 166
Location: Kentucky 6b
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Well, it's finally planting time and I'm in the search for perinneal plants to add to my yard and in-progress food forest. Basically I've planted the back 1/3 of my lot in trees and shrubs (Apple, cherry, pear, peach, goumi, gooseberry, etc). The third closest to the house will be a somewhat conventional lawn with 4'x8' square foot style raised bed, and the portion between the two I plan on sowing with wildflowers (two mixes I found at Lowes). Otherwise I've bought bags of roots (from Walmart) of rudbeckia, red-hot poker, lily of the valley, toad lily, coneflower , oriental liliesthat I've plugged into all three areas where the conditions were appropriate. I'm basically trying to start attracting pollinators and beneficial a before my trees mature so they're on site already when the time is right.

The question being, what commonly available perinneal species should I be on the lookout for at conventil big box stores? The plants must be multi-use and low maintenance. Early yesterday I bought sage/salvia (adds color, attracts bees), lambs ear (edible and leaves can be used as bandages), two species of columbine for shade and sun (hummingbirds love them, and I like the look), and wormwood (medicinal, may be of benefit for small livestock?). I also plan on seeding out bee balm, foxglove, lupine, and vining nasturtium (by the apple trees).


Are there any readily available species I should be on the look out for? I'm also considering a creeping thyme to fill in bare areas around walkways, and the flowers should attract pollinators.
 
Becky Proske
Posts: 43
Location: Wisconsin, USA (zone 4b)
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Hi Blake,

To be thinking ahead about pollinator habitat and support is a smart strategy for fruit tree health. I am currently in the same process, starting a lot of prairie natives by seed and buying transplants when I can afford them. My focus has simply been on increasing species diversity. But I also pay attention to blooming time. I aim to have vairious plants in bloom throughout the growing season. Fill in the gaps to ensure a steady food source. (I planted a witch-hazel last year and will plant a forsythia this year with this in mind. They are both shrubs that bloom very early in spring. They could be a potential food source on those unseasonably warm days the way I see it).

To help answer your question I'd like to point out the importance of "umbel" shaped flowers, like yarrow. They attract beneficial insects like the hover fly. Some herbs have this flower shape as well. It is quite easy to fill this niche by planting dill, cilantro or onions and letting some go to seed. Parsley, carrots or lovage are biannual and perennial examples. Rose milkweed falls into this umbel cartagory too. This plant may also be widely available, (with the save the monarch butterfly movement).

Becky
 
Blake Wheeler
Posts: 166
Location: Kentucky 6b
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Awesome, I've kinda hit on that solely on accident. Have a few species of yarrow I bought (a red blossomed variety) because they were on clearance, though not sure why, they looked healthy. Would rose milkweed also be known as butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa), I found some seeds for it I also bought as well as golden alyssum which apparently pollinators love. Gonna try to get some queen Anne's lace from the parents field too.

I figure between all that, my wildflower mix, the "good bug blend" from groworganic.com, the bee balm I have, and some selections which should be available in store later in the year I should be good. Hopefully have a back yard full of beneficials and plenty of color as well. Starting early so I have 3-4 years to really get things figured out.
 
Zach Muller
gardener
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I have bought a lot of bulb type perennial from big box places.
Thyme is great, but for some reason my chickens love it so much they destroy it.


Keep your eye out for perennial plants that are vigorous and in public places. I have got a few different things from the side of the road or in a back alley. Sunflowers, sage, lavender, cone flower, and many others.
Also spiderwort has a good flower for attracting bees and other flies if you ever see that available. Last year it was the first thing to bloom along with the early bulbs and stone fruit. This year it's lagging behind for whatever reason.

Don't under estimate annual self seeders like dead nettle, Chickweed, and wild violet. They are blooming to the max early on when a lot of fruit is also.
 
Becky Proske
Posts: 43
Location: Wisconsin, USA (zone 4b)
5
food preservation tiny house trees wofati
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Blake Wheeler wrote: ...Would rose milkweed also be known as butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa)...


Nope, not quite, butterfly weed has orange colored blossoms, while rose milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is dark pink. Same family, different species.

(Good question.)
 
Lou Schultz
Posts: 15
Location: Zone 5a Upstate NY
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Hostas and ostrich ferns are available cheap; both will provide edible shoots in the spring, and thrive in the shade as your trees mature. Hosta flowers are also edible.
Oriental poppies are commonly found in those root bags. They're good for pollinators and I've heard of the seeds being used as a spice (can't vouch for that myself, though). They have a vigorous root system so I'm guessing that, like comfrey, they are probably beneficial for the soil food web. At least that's what I'm hoping; it's too early in my own experimenting to know for sure.
 
Robert Dobie
Posts: 18
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Hi Blake adding bee attracting flowers is always a good thing to aid in pollinating your fruit trees. You may also try adding a couple home made Mason bee condos in your yard as Mason bees are super pollinators and good to have in any orchard to bump up fruit production. You can also buy a few Mason bees in cocoon form to get things started. As for big box store I will never shop at any of them personally as we vote for companies to stay in business with the dollars we spend. The Walton family that owns Walmart sure seems to have more than enough money already. I can't support any business that has most of there products made offshore as in China and elsewhere. One of the main reason we are in such a mess at the moment in North America is due to the Big Corporations lobbying for multinational free trade agreements being pushed on us as a good thing for everyone. Sure we can buy cheap stuff from big box stores but it is being made by people half way around the world that make 60 cents an hour. We will all be working for 60 cents an hour in the not to distant future at the rate things are going. You can get by on those wages in a place like Thailand, Cambodia or India as the cost of living is a lot less. Anyway I am getting of topic here but any plants I buy I get from small local nurseries to help keep the money I have spent circulating in the local economy. Shopping at the big box stores exports wealth out of the country.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1363
Location: northern California
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Unless you are very familiar with plants, there are several dangers in shopping from such sources.
--perhaps because they are national, they are notorious for selling plants not adapted to your local climate. Tropical plants advertised as hardy perennials, etc. So be sure of what you're getting and don't take label instructions verbatim.
--Particularly with bulbs and other things sold in dormant condition, be sure to discern the vitality of the stuff. Bulbs and roots in packages that can't be opened and inspected are especially disappointing....often they will be shriveled up or moldy or otherwise worthless....
--Such places are not above making mistakes in labeling....that is, as to species and variety, not just information.

With these caveats in mind, there are definitely some bargains to be had. Plants newly out of bloom or otherwise not looking their best are often put on deep discount, and if you're confident you can bring them back, it might be a good way to stock up.
 
Blake Wheeler
Posts: 166
Location: Kentucky 6b
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Zach Muller wrote:
Don't under estimate annual self seeders like dead nettle, Chickweed, and wild violet. They are blooming to the max early on when a lot of fruit is also.

I am looking into seeding some chickweed, purslane, and stinging nettle into some of the back corners. As for dead nettle, let's just say I had dirt brought in to cover the septic tank deeper (new code) and I've got plenty of dead nettle now lol.

Mason bees are definitely a plan, actually have some lumber to build it out of in the garage, but I want to wait a bit later to get enough flowers to keep them in the area. Then I plan on buying cocoons.

Root bags have been a hit or miss thing so far. I've had some open rotten, some shriveled up, and some I'm waiting to see what comes of them. If half of them didn't start stocking so early I doubt it would be half the problem, but it is what it is. If nothing else I can just seed the same things (rudbeckia, red hot poker, toad lily, salvia, etc.). I will say I've been careful picking my species and haven't gotten too outlandish. I have found great deals on things that just haven't flowered enough to sell well and overstock though.

Robert, I totally agree with you. My issue is that our local nurseries stock little to nothing useful. Im talking shade trees, ornamentals, evergreen shrubs, etc. They have their place, just not in my yard lol. Would love to order most from private owned nurseries but shipping costs get prohibitive. My main concern with box stores is the pesticides used on most of their plants. There have been reports they use systemic ones, so I'm leaning more towards seeding things in, just want a little splash of life for encouragement. Getting a bit tired of seeing nothing but dead nettle, grass, dandelions, burdock, and thistle.

Now just waiting for the ground to dry enough to plant, and it's not looking like anytime soon in the next week lol
 
Vida Norris
Posts: 114
Location: Ontario Canada, Zone 5b
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I have to also caution the use of plants from these big box stores. I am sure some of the plants will obviously turn out fine or are of relatively good quality (for example I found some great quality potatoes at walmart last year) but I have had some really horrific things happen as well. For example, my husband brought home some fall mums as a gift for me 1.5 years ago. Well, they looked great, big bushy orange mums. But when I came home after having them out for a few days, to my shock and horror I saw several species of insects covered in the mum's pollen, not far from the plant, DEAD! It seemed really obvious to me that the poor unsuspected bugs came for a nice visit in the flowers and were killed instantly. I'm not even sure if it was pollen (do mums have orange pollen?) or just straight up poison put on these mums. But the range of bugs was pretty interesting - bees, hornets, ladybugs and grasshoppers!

Also, I spoke with a local greenhouse whom does their best to grow high quality plants without all the toxicity, and he explained that the people who get the jobs to grow for big stores like home depot etc, (he knew the growers in our area) apparently since they have to produce such a high volume of plants, they use the lowest quality seed/bulb etc possible, to keep up with the demand and the extremely low cost that places like home depot want to charge.

I'd like to think this doesn't happen everywhere, but sadly, I am sure it happens more often than we'd like. Especially since it has come out recently that home depot sells plants that are high in neocontinoids which effectively kill bees - so all those nice "bee attracting" plants and flowers are actually hidden bee killers.

Here is a picture of the unfortunate bugs. You can't see it clearly in this photo (sorry, iphone) but there was tiny little orange pollen type stuff on their legs. Not pictured is the grasshopper that was a little ways away covered with the same orange stuff.

 
Kj Koch
Posts: 21
Location: Jersey Shore PA
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I've bought tons of stuff off the clearance rack at Walmart to mixed results. First things first I recommend you quarantine all the items that you bought for a week, just in case. That being said the bulbs that I bought at Christmas time are now growing nicely in my yard and several strawberry and blueberry bushes that I bought last year are looking like they will do well this year.
 
Robert Dobie
Posts: 18
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Hi Blake, sorry to hear your local nurseries have such a poor selection to choose from. I get it about just wanting to get some bee attracting flowers in ASAP.
 
Blake Wheeler
Posts: 166
Location: Kentucky 6b
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The impetus for change rests on our shoulders and sadly most people don't realize it, don't care, or are so mislead they don't know the difference. It may not amount to much, but I think all of us here are changing the world, one person at a time, the only way we can, with our own lives and actions. The thing about Monsanto and Bayer, yeah, they're wrecking things with their products, but in the end they're just giving people what they want, that's the scary part.

I will say, how anyone cannot see the decline in honeybees is beyond me. I can remember just 20 years ago as a kid my parents lawn would be full of them every spring and summer. We had a neighbor across the road with a few hives as well. Haven't seen a bee, honey bee, in their yard yet this year. My plans for my place include eventually getting a hive, need to check with the neighbors to make sure none are allergic first though. Did see a few flying around a hole near the foundation of my garage, so I might just find a surprise in there this summer lol.

Their are small glimmers of hope I've seen thus far though. Found several young garter snakes in my yard (little do they know they picked a safe haven lol), several cottontails have been living in a brush pile I've accumulated cleaning out the fence row, and the feeders I've sat out have brought a greater diversity of species of birds then I ever guessed they would. I didnt buy property with a "forest" on it so I'm actively bringing a small bit of it to me, kinda my garden of Eden if you will. Hopefully it'll feed me as well lol. Seems like every morning I'm out there seeing the progress and checking out which tree is starting to bud out (nice after staring at sticks in the ground all winter lol). I will say the comfrey is growing like mad. Never quite seen a plant pack on an inch of growth overnight.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2296
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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The best advice I can give on this subject is to start your own from seed.

Most of the plants you will find at big box stores will have had some sort of chemical treatment somewhere along the way.
Sometimes it is a fungicide added to the starter mix, other times it is outright insecticide to keep chewing critters off the baby plants.
This is even true at Nurseries, they have the mind set of getting their profit out of the plants they sell.
So they use a regime of spraying or soil treating, neither of which is really good for safe, healthy food production.
 
Robert Dobie
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Hi Blake, all the best with growing your food forest. I was asked to edit my last post of anything political so just removed most of it as there would not be to much of the message left or what was left would not have made much sense. Anyway it seems most here get what is going on anyway. I am just getting started on a 50 acre farm on the east coast in a few weeks as soon as it warms up a bit. Won't be able to check in to Permies without hitting the coffee shop in the little village about 4 miles down the road from the farm. Will check in when I can ! Cheers
 
Blake Wheeler
Posts: 166
Location: Kentucky 6b
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It's all good, had to edit my reply too lol. Too easy for me to get political when it comes to this stuff as political reasons have an influence (some anyway) on why I'm doing it in the first place. Good luck with the farm. Would love to have that much land to work with (have this feeling a small gun range would find its home there too lol) but as it stands the 3/4 acre I'm working with has been more than enough to keep me busy, especially doing the work by hand!
 
Robert Dobie
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Hi Blake, you are right ! Pretty hard to remove the Political as we live in a Nanny State for the most part. I am quite happy to govern myself and don't beg for any services. Good thing we all live in a Common Law jurisdiction and our consent is required for all contracts including being governed. I will just continue on my merry way and try to help anyone out that is trying to help themselves along the way. I think the plot of land you are working with is enough to feed yourself. I did pretty good working with a city lot for several years. I just really like gardening and have run out of space. Found a super deal on the East coast so decided to dive in head first and move to the other side of my home country. No point in having a million dollar mortgage ( Death Pledge ) on a bulldozer special in my home town. We live to grow and grow to live so thought it was time to make the move and really build something. Actions speak louder than words and we can only really lead by example in the end. We all need to take the time to inspire and educate all those coming up behind us that are heading in the same general direction. It is pretty easy to see that we collectively will not solve our problems doing more of the same. We have all been living a lifestyle based on borrowed time for the past century. The ones that have figured out how to live with less will do OK, the rest I don't think will fare to well when the time comes. Self sufficiency is where it is at. We all need to become more self reliant and keep it close to home. Take care or your friends and neighbours and your community. I am not holding my breath waiting for our leaders to do the right thing on our behalf. Hope I don't get asked to edit this again, or maybe I am in the wrong section. Have not been able to find the "Cider Press" political section. Pretty sure that was the name of the forum area suggested by the moderator. I really am far more interested in growing things, making art and having a good day every day. I do think it is our duty though to overstand what is being foisted upon us slowly but surely. All I can say is I am happy my Grandparents were good teachers and had me gardening pretty much as soon as I could follow them around the garden as a child. I have been told by many that my ideas are way out there but I am not doing anything everyone from my Grandparents didn't do on a daily basis. You couldn't just go to the local market for food in the old days, you had to grow it. The older I get the less I need - food, shelter, water and clothing. All the other stuff does not mean a whole lot without the basics. Critical thinking, ethics, honor and common sense seem to be a thing of the past. I think I am off topic with the Big Box Store theme here once again so time to sign of and call it a day. Cheers, Blake
 
Deb Stephens
Posts: 375
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Zach Muller wrote:Keep your eye out for perennial plants that are vigorous and in public places. I have got a few different things from the side of the road or in a back alley. Sunflowers, sage, lavender, cone flower, and many others.
Also spiderwort has a good flower for attracting bees and other flies if you ever see that available.


I just wanted to comment on this (sorry Zach, nothing personal ) Please do NOT dig wildflowers from roadsides and public places, woods or anywhere else. Many wildflowers are becoming scarce (even extinct) for this very reason. And it isn't as if they are merely being transferred elsewhere, so still in the eco-system, because the sad fact is that most of the transplants do not survive. The reason is that many roadside plants are native perennials that grow well under harsh conditions. To do that they send down extremely long, deep taproots so they can find water and nutrients not available in the poor shallow soils near the surface. (Roads aren't really known for the excellence of their soil!)

If you must forage for wildflowers -- despite the many perfectly good seed companies out there who would love to provide you with good quality seeds from these same plants -- then please, at least wait until they have flowered and produced seed and collect those (the seeds, I mean). You will have greater success and a larger supply of plants (cheaper!) by using seeds than by digging up a single wildflower that will probably not survive after you have chopped its 6' to 10' taproot off a foot or two underground. In addition, using seeds means having total control. You can get the species you want without added chemicals (especially pesticides and herbicides) found in the container plants at big box stores.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Deb Stephens wrote:Please do NOT dig wildflowers from roadsides and public places, woods or anywhere else. Many wildflowers are becoming scarce (even extinct) for this very reason. And it isn't as if they are merely being transferred elsewhere, so still in the eco-system, because the sad fact is that most of the transplants do not survive. The reason is that many roadside plants are native perennials that grow well under harsh conditions. To do that they send down extremely long, deep taproots so they can find water and nutrients not available in the poor shallow soils near the surface. (Roads aren't really known for the excellence of their soil!)


It is certainly the case that some flowers don't transplant well, and it is equally the case that there are rare flowers in the world that should be left in an undisturbed state wherever they are found. However a great many flowers are annual and/or prolific, which means that if they are transplanted from a location where they will not be missed, there's no problem. A "please do not dig wildflowers anywhere" rule is far too cautious in my opinion.

My own thing is wild fruit trees, not flowers, but many of the principles are the same. Rather than "do not transplant, ever" I suggest following a few common sense guidelines for responsible transplanting:

1) Be sure that the plant itself is suitable for transplanting. If it's one plant from a thousand, you don't need to care as much; a higher death rate may be OK in that case.

2) Be sure that the plant is plentiful/numerous. Deb has spelled out the issues here.

3) Make sure you're digging in a suitable location. Any random roadside may not be suitable. The road is often built on a right-of-way; that's not the same as public land, and the owner of the land may take a dim view of people digging on his land adjacent to the roadway, even if you dig outside his fence. (He has to allow the road to exist and to allow traffic over it; he doesn't have to allow wildflower and plant collecting, because the public access right-of-way typically doesn't include that right.) Likewise, if anybody lives close enough to see you digging, they live close enough to be angry about a dirty hole where there used to be an attractive plant. Limit your digging to places that where your digging will not be noticed and the plant will not be missed. My favorite spots, honestly, are where the plant itself is out of place, like in a road ditch where it will be destroyed the next time the county uses a road grader to clean out the ditch. But lots of times there are areas of erosion or disturbance where the plant doesn't have a future, and your digging will do no harm.

Use your judgment, err on the side of caution, and strive to leave your plant collecting activities completely unnoticed. Those are my suggestions.
 
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