Buying Wholesale Plugs


Whether you’re a small garden center just getting started or a larger grower, Bob’s Market is here to meet your needs.  This time of the year our focus is on seedling plug production.  Since the 1990s, Bob’s has been a seedling plug supplier for Ball Seed.  Currently ranked among the top young plant growers by Greenhouse Grower Magazine, we ship around 152 million seedlings annually!  So you might be wondering how to buy seedlings from Bob’s.  In this blog post we’re going to look at options to fit your needs at any level.


Our Process

First off, let’s run through a quick summary of our process.  Instead of growing based on speculation, most of our seedling plugs are grown to order.  This means that orders for an upcoming season are placed in advance through WebTrack or your Ball Seed sales representative.  The ideal time to order is directly following the season in which a crop is sold.  The cutoff for order adjustments is based off of the crop time for individual varieties so it can vary from 5-11 weeks before the ship week.


A few weeks out from the projected sow week, we receive a purchase order from Ball Seed that is a compilation of all the orders placed.  (The sow week is calculated based on the crop time for that individual variety subtracted from the ship week it is to be delivered.)  The plugs are then sown, germinated, and grown to a point where they can be patched. 


Patching is the process where we fix trays (either by hand or by robot) that have missing seedlings caused by germination failures, drip out, or other issues.  When we sow a variety we grow extra plug trays called buffers to use for this process.  The number of buffer trays we sow is based on a formula taking into account the seeds’ germination rate among other factors.  For example, most pansy varieties have one buffer tray per every 8 trays.


After patching, the seedlings continue to grow until they are ready to ship.  Prior to the ship week we receive a delivery list from Ball Seed that has a breakdown of the individual shipments.  We then use this information to determine loads and routes for our own fleet of trucks, FedEx shipping needs, or palletized freight arrangements. The orders are then pulled and shipped.

Purchasing Options

When it comes to purchasing seedling plugs we have options that fit businesses of any size.  For example, if you’re looking for smaller quantities of plugs and you’re within driving distance of our production facility in Mason, WV, partial plug trays might be a viable option.  Partial plug trays are left over from the patching process.  This leaves partial trays that are then sold on a per plug basis to local wholesale customers.

If you’re an IGC looking for larger quantities, but not quite truckloads of plugs, Ball ColorLink has you covered.  Established by Ball in 1995, ColorLink is a dedicated team to help you with every aspect of starting up a successful operation.  They can answer questions concerning growing, transplanting, and production planning.


We are proud to be recognized as a Ball Gold Service Supplier.  This recognizes our high order fulfillment, accurate inventory, timely order confirmations and shipment tracking, and priority service on shortages and substitutions.  Anytime you’re on WebTrack, look for the Gold Service Supplier icon.

Speaking of WebTrack, Ball’s WebTrack system offers a convenient way to place orders, track shipments, view invoices, and more.  Also, each week during the spring and fall production seasons we post a listing of surplus seedling trays to WebTrack.  Unlike partial trays, these are full buffer trays.  You can register to receive an email anytime we post extras.

If you’re interested in setting up an account to buy seedling plugs from us through Ball, a good place to get started is by calling Ball Seed at 800-879-BALL(2255).  They can help with determining what types of products are right for you.  Of course, if you have any questions, you can always feel free to contact us as well.