You can ask any gardener (maybe even the gardening columnist for our paper!), and they’d all agree that we have hit an important moment in our seasonal gardening practices. Not only is the weather perfect to be outside, not too hot or too cold, but it’s a great time to get your plants in the ground and tended to. Gardening sales almost always peak in the month of April, but this year we have a phenomenally high peak.
It’s quite understandable. What else have we to do, that gets us outside and productive? You can only walk around your block and say hi to your neighbor so many times in one day. I chatted with several locals in the gardening industry about astonishing demands for goods. Greg, an assistant store manager at the Ace Scarborough in Ben Lomond, found that “our store was stormed for paint, with everyone thinking now was the time to get to that back bedroom that never got a new coat. But now, we’re working so hard to keep plants on the shelves.” Renee Shepherd, owner of a popular seed company based in Felton, asserted that “sales have gone up 400-500 percent for all large seed distributors.” Shepherd thought “the first day of increased demand was just an exception, but then one day became three, three became five. Now that it’s been driving up for a week, it seems like we may have hit the peak.”
While the demand might be great for business, it’s also created many difficulties. Morgan Scarborough, the Vice President of Ace Scarborough, has 1/3 less staff than before sheltering-in-place. “Many employees have chosen to shelter-in-place, which is quite understandable, but does make for staffing difficulties. We’ll be glad to have them back when the crisis passes.” On top of the staff Scarborough is lacking, it’s been a challenge keeping his current staff and community safe. “With everything currently going on, it’s requires constant evolution to keep us safe. We’re social distancing, wearing masks and gloves, have installed shields at the registers, we’re pushing for curbside delivery, are using sanitizer, and proper PPE.” The community has also been helping, and Scarborough extends his thanks for, “letting us be open and shopping locally… Having people close to home they’re finally realizing that we’re here.”
Scarborough also wants to caution against “bored shoppers... If you have essential needs, come get them, but please don’t bring the whole family.” Greg, the assistant store manager, asserts that it’s really easy to tell the difference between necessities and non-essentials, especially during curbside pickup, “I recently got a request for a porcelain chip kit and to bring out several kinds of brooms so the customer could pick their favorite, and I told him, ‘I’m sorry, but others have more pressing needs. We can’t do this right now.’” Aside from the odd encounter, Greg has noticed a lot of good in the Ace community recently, “People are getting friendlier and friendlier, and everyone is really pitching in to help.”
Shepherd and Scarborough, have a more complicated theory behind the motivation for all this new gardening. Both agreed that gardening is an excellent activity to keep occupied with while sheltering-in-place, but they also commented separately on an especially high demand for produce seeds in the past week. Scarborough explained further, “a lot of people are looking towards home farming during these times, out of concern for food availability.”
For this reason, Renee’s Garden is the ideal business to purchase from, as “we originally wanted to grow varieties for people who want to cook, so we now pick varieties based on their easy culture and great flavor.” She has simple advice for any newcomers trying their hand at home cultivation, “start with what you like to eat. Try to grow a salad garden, with tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and such.”
So, get out! Enjoy the sun, whether you’re watering, planting, weeding, thinning, or trimming. Just make sure to respect your local garden department and only buy what you need.