The weather this past month has offered something for everybody, from the skiers to the desert lovers. These challenges of our high desert region make it difficult to mature many crops. Transplants extend the garden season and produce earlier harvests and flowers.

Almost everything in our life has to be instant; instant cooking, instant pictures, instant information, so why not instant color and instant harvest from the garden? While this is not possible, transplants speed up the beauty in the landscape and the harvest in the vegetables.With the recent weather, plants from seed have grown agonizingly slowly! In addition to the time required for the seed to germinate, it takes several weeks for the plants to become established. Transplants, in some cases, offer quicker color and the possibility of an earlier harvest. Another reason for selecting transplants is the availability of varieties. Many local growers routinely choose the best varieties available today. The varieties simply are not available in the packet seed lines.

The high cost of seed also favors transplants. Begonias, for example, have over 1 million seeds per ounce. One ounce of a choice variety may sell for $2,000-3,000. It simply is not economical to scatter tiny expensive seeds in the garden and expose them to the climate, insects, diseases and other problems that interfere with their growth.

Transplants also allow gardeners specific selections not available in local packet seeds lines. Packet seeds are often mixtures and do not lend themselves to the designs and color schemes the gardener wishes to use.

Transplants are also effective in the vegetable garden. Using transplants, one can plant a spring crop of many of the cool season crops and follow them with a second crop of similar vegetables in July. These summer planted vegetables are harvested in the fall. Their quality is very good because they mature in the cooler temperatures. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants also do well as transplants providing they are planted when growing conditions are favorable. Properly cared for transplants start producing several weeks ahead of similar vegetables planted by seed. During years with short growing seasons, this makes the difference between a bounteous harvest and no crop.

I often use transplants in my garden to counteract soil problems. The heavy clay soil is reluctant to let the small seeds germinate and emerge. Transplants overcome the crusting that prevents the tiny seeds from reaching sunlight.

Careful selection of transplants helps ensure garden success. Select growers or garden centers as carefully as you select any trusted professional. Even the best transplants are stunted and spoiled if neglected at the garden center. Wilted transplants, stacked on hot asphalt parking lots, are no bargain at any price. Tall, overgrown plants are also no bargain. Plants stressed by lack of fertilizer or those damaged by excessive heat, root die-back, or decay never flourish in the garden.

Successful transplants must adapt quickly to their new environment. Select actively growing plants with strong, healthy root systems. Gently remove the plant from the pot or cell pack and look for roots with a creamy white color. Avoid those with soft, brown, mushy roots or those with badly overgrown root balls. Stocky, robust transplants with a deep, green color make the most successful transition to the growing area.

Inexperienced gardeners erroneously suppose transplants replace the need for good soil preparation. Transplants only do well when grown in well-prepared garden soils. Improve their growth by watering the plants with diluted starter fertilizer. Most transplants are grown in a soilless mix that lacks nutrients. Start fertilizers help bridge the nutrient deficit until the roots establish themselves in the garden soil.

Plant the transplants at the same depth as they were grown in the greenhouse container. If roots are in a tight ball, separate them gently to help them spread into the soil. Keep the soil moist, but don't drown the plants.

Don't forget transplants for container gardens. Planters, tubs or barrels offer a delightful accent for the patio or other garden areas. Choose the soil mixture carefully, and add varieties of plants requiring similar growing conditions. Add water and nutrients, and the containers will overflow with colorful blossoms. Vegetables also are suitable for container production.

Don't overlook the many perennial transplants available in the garden centers. Perennials often take several years to grow from seed to the blooming size. Start enjoying the blossoms right away by purchasing designed perennials and planting them in your garden.

Transplants offer many advantages to enhance gardening in our area. They provide excellent colors and varieties for landscape design and superior varieties for vegetable gardens. Select healthy, well-grown plants, and place them in well prepared garden soils. Use them to extend the garden season and get the best utilization of garden space. Overcome the recent changeable weather by letting others pre-grow your plants.

- 45th Annual Iris Show of the Utah Iris Society, Saturday-Sunday, May 25-26, Garden Center in Sugarhouse Park (1602 E. 2100 South). Saturday, 1:30-6 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Entries accepted Saturday 8-10 a.m. Open to anyone who grows iris and knows the names. Admission is free.

- Bonsai Show, Thursday-Sunday, June 6-9, at the Yarrow Hotel in Park City. Part of the National Convention American Bonsai Society. $2 donation.