Plant Sale Success!

May 26, 2008

I hosted my very first plant sale this past Saturday from 9 AM to 3 PM at the end of my driveway and it was a success!

I had been preparing all week putting together accurate descriptions of each cultivar with photos and name tags. I also printed out tip sheets on transplanting tomatoes. On Friday I prepared the signs for my sale using old hanging file folders, sheet protectors (there was a chance of rain), printed pages with date, address, time and the words “Heirloom Tomato Plant Sale”.

I really debated on the wording of the signs for my plant sale. I wanted to distinguish my seedlings from commercial cultivars, however, not all of my tomatoes were heirlooms. Most are open-pollinated which means you can save seeds from the fruit and it will produce plants identical to the parent (so long as there is no cross-pollination). “Open-pollinated” didn’t sound as nice as “heirloom” and might be confusing to people. The term “heirloom” is contentious in itself so I decided to use it as per Dr. Carolyn J. Male’s description as a cultivar that has been passed down through several generations of a family because of its valued characteristics.

I scrounged around for some stakes, pounded them into the ground with my rubber mallet and taped the file folder on the inside to the stake and the two sides together on the outside. This was the sign that I had on my lawn:

I put two signs on the main road and two more signs on my street. Next year I think I’ll use taller pieces of wood and will staple the signs to it rather than fussing around with tape. I may also make the “Heirloom Tomato” part of the sign bolder and bigger as some people thought it was a flower plant sale. I think I’ll also do some better advertising, perhaps putting something in the local paper and also some signs at the grocery store and the post office. I pretty much decided at the last minute that I was going to have this tomato sale so I think with some extra preparation next year I’ll have lots more traffic.

Friday night I borrowed a table and a couple of pieces of wood to use as my set-up. I started bringing my tomato plants from the deck in the backyard to set them on the tables in the garage overnight. I should have taken an inventory to help me keep track of each plant I sold. I’ve got a list of all the tomatoes I have on the sidebar under 2008 Tomato Plant List.

I was really torn on what to charge for each plant, right up until the day of sale. I finally decided to charge $3.50 for the large tomatoes (mostly Cherokee Purple that had been started on March 24), $3 for the bulk of the tomatoes (started on March 30), $2.50 for the ones that still looked big but not as big as the $3 ones and then $2 and $1 for the smaller ones that had a late start or got stunted by a bit of sun burn. I arranged the tomatoes by size into rows on three different tables and a shelf. I attached name badges with the name and picture of each cultivar at the head of each row and taped descriptions in front of each row. My plant sale looked like this:

Here is my $3.50 table of Cherokee Purple tomatoes:

My $3 table of Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Blondkopfchen, Black Plum, Black Pear, Black from Tula, Canabec Rose, Earliest + Best, Sweetie, Bonny Best, Eva Purple Ball, Green Zebra, Old Flame, Moscow, Sausage-Opalka, Red Lightning, Arkansas Traveller, White Wonder, Mirabelle Blanche and Colour Mixture:

Not pictured is a three-tiered chrome shelf to the left. Here’s a couple of close-ups of the $3 table:

My $2.50 table of Pruden’s Purple, Red Lightning and Earliest + Best:

My $2 and $1 table of Old Flame, Arkansas Traveller, Box Car Willie, Eva Purple Ball, White Wonder, Mirabelle Blanche, Green Zebra, Pruden’s Purple, Hawaiian Pineapple, Marmande, Black from Tula and Aunt Ruby’s German Green:

That morning I dug up some extra pots of flowers that I wanted to get rid of, like lily of the valley, bleeding heart and mountain bluet.

I also dragged out some of the extra vegetable seedlings that couldn’t fit in my garden, such as Black Eel zucchini, Canada Crookneck squash, chives, Montreal Melon, Smart Pickle cucumber, Stowell’s Sweet corn and Waltham Butternut squash.

I sold 6 plants to my first customer at 8:45 AM and 4 plants to my second customer at 9 AM who had found out about my sale from my first customer. Lots of people stopped by just to look (a.k.a. garage sale crowd) and I didn’t have my third customer until 10:30 AM. A couple more sales around 11 AM, 12:30 PM, 1 PM, 1:45 PM and 2:15 PM. In between customers I managed to plant my trellised cedar box with pole beans and vining spinach and half-barrel with annuals. Some questions I got were, “What’s a good tomato for sandwiches?”, “Which tomato has low acid?” and “What tolerates a lot of heat?”. Next year I think I’ll have an alphabetized chart of the cultivars with a check box for easy reference to help me answer these questions.

I sold 28 tomato plants and all of my flowers and vegetable seedlings and made $110. Not bad for just having four signs thrown up at the last minute.

6 Responses to “Plant Sale Success!”

  1. sammyqc Says:

    Yay! Congrats!
    You should try again this Saturday, you’d probably still sell quite a few. Maybe advertise on Kijiji, and UsedOttawa too. You never know what people are gonna ask. It’s funny. I had a lot of people ask for cherry toms (I only have Black Cherry, and not very big yet, so I didn’t want to try to sell them) Your plants look terrific!

    PS If you have any hostas that you could divide, those always sell really well too.

  2. Congrats. The seedlings look really good!


  3. Kathy Says:

    Thanks Sammy and Telsing! I think I will have another go of it this weekend. I’ll print up some posters and put them around town tonight.

    Last night I stopped by an Ottawa nursery and checked out their heirloom tomatoes. They were selling for $3.50 each and were of a really poor quality – in worse state than my $2.50 Pruden’s Purple. They were scrawny with wind-damaged foliage and little weeds in the pots. I was actually a little shocked. I think next year I’ll bump up the prices by $0.50 or $1.00 as all of mine are super healthy with great foliage and good potting soil.

  4. Ellen Says:


    Just some input on your pricing, if you like. We sell a lot of plants in the spring, also heirloom tomatoes, from our seeds.

    We charge one price – $3.00 each. Your $3.50 are bigger than ours so it would be a fair price in our market but the rest would certainly go at the $3.00 price.

    We sell at the Ottawa ORganic Market – likely a comparable market in terms of who would be interested in your plants. Great job. We need more people ‘pushing’ the great taste and variety of heirlooms. If we don’t keep the interest up we may all end up with those pink things with the scary white stem attachment thing you get in the grocery store.

    Ellen de Casmaker
    Eternal Seed

  5. Kathy Says:

    Wow, neat-o! Hi Ellen! I bought some Canabec Rose seeds from you at Seedy Saturday. My mom loves your seeds! I go to the Ottawa Organic Market at least once a month if not more and I always stop by your table to check out what’s new. šŸ™‚

    Thanks for the tips!

  6. Nancy Bond Says:

    Kudos to you on your great sale!

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