By Nicholette Carlson
NORTH WEBSTER — Local garden centers are seeing an influx in community members planting and gardening earlier than normal this year. Ed Clayton from Clayton Garden Center, North Webster, stated he’s been seeing lots of new people which means plenty of new gardens this year.
Since people are home, they want to get out and do something, particularly with the weather getting warmer. As one of the first places to reopen, they have seen a lot of traffic in the garden center lately. Clayton’s is regularly getting in reorders of garden seed, but since they are selling more than usual, certain brands and varieties are not immediately available.
Tomatoes seem to be particularly popular lately along with almost any type of vegetable. Garden seed is also going quickly. He is also noticing more people buying flowers. He believes their business is a feel-good place, full of color and life with all the plants, and so individuals are buying more flowers to provide some color and lift their spirits at home.
While social distancing is still recommended, Clayton’s is ensuring all employees and customers are following the proper guidelines. They are also requesting all customers wear masks in order to protect themselves and others. For those who prefer not to have to come inside, there is not an outdoor cash register available.
Jason Becker with Countryscapes and Gardens in Ligonier is also seeing an increase in customers and vegetable sales. With a reduction in activities and events and more open schedules, Becker believes individuals are wanting to enjoy the space around their home and have the time to do a garden again.
However, the weather dictates everything. Both garden centers are seeing an increase in vegetable sales earlier than normal in the year. Vegetable sales are about a month ahead of where they typically are at this time. Weather conditions may present the biggest detriment to new gardeners who plant early and then see a frost which could kill the plants or low soil temperature, which is critical for establishing good root growth even if it doesn’t frost according to Becker.
With more first-time gardeners, Becker is getting more questions about space and soil amenities. Many of the more popular types of vegetables, particularly tomatoes, are also selling out quickly. Countryscapes also has patio tomatoes and vegetables in hanging baskets for individuals who do not have enough space for a planted garden.
Becker said that, when the economy is tough, normally garden centers will see an uptick in vegetable gardens because people want to save money and raise their own food. He has also seen an uptick in herb gardens.
Since more people are interested in vegetable gardens and more people are buying plants and seeds earlier, many of the popular varieties are difficult to find. However, local garden centers are keeping in stock with plants even if there is a limitation on selection.