Garden centers go under scope of Consumers' Checkbook

8:48 AM, Apr 23, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - A Twin Cities nonprofit that researches local companies and recommends where consumers can get the most bang for their buck has some tips for Minnesotans eager to start the gardening season.

"The best thing to do to make sure you're getting good plants is to shop at a reputable place," said Twin Cities Consumers' Checkbook's Kevin Brasler. 

The nonprofit, checkbook.org, puts out a magazine every quarter and the latest Spring/Summer issue breaks down everything from bike shops to garden centers.

In the case of garden centers, the study focused on the price and quality of plants.

The study showed that Home Depot has really low prices, about 40 percent cheaper compared to the  independent gardening nurseries, Brasler explained.

But while the prices are lower, the quality can suffer, the study said.

We contacted Home Depot and a representative says consumers should visit the stores for themselves to compare quality. That same representative also said Home Depot offers a refund for up to a year for all "living" things as long as you bring in the item and have a receipt.

Out of a list of about 50 garden centers Checkbook's consumer study found that private nurseries typically have a better plant product, but prices will vary, big time.

"With garden centers, we found just massive price variation," Brasler said. "We found for some, for most plants that we shopped, and we shopped for a bunch of different varieties, we found that the highest prices were usually five times as much as the lowest prices we found."

Four green houses; however, did standout when it comes to quality and price, according to the study.

  • Chenoweth Floral and Greenhouses in New Brighton
  • Malmborg's Garden Center in Rogers
  • Rum River Tree Farm in Anoka
  • Gregor Farm and Greenhouse in Medina

"So there are some cases where you don't necessarily have to pay a fortune to get good stuff," said Brasler.

No matter the price, there are several things to consider before you purchase. It's recommended you check the plant's roots to make sure they haven't dried out. Also, look for fungus or other diseases and ask for a written guarantee of the product just in case you do everything right, but it turns out all wrong.

"One of the problems with buying live things, the customer has to take care of it and take care of it properly," said Brasler.  "But if you get it in writing and explain to the store, 'Look, I did exactly what you said I should do,' then you shouldn't have any problems with returns."

Now, if we could just get the weather to play along.

For more information, go to checkbook.org. The site does require a subscription.

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