5 Tips for Stocking Up on Spring Plants and Landscaping Supplies While Social Distancing
Spring doesn’t slow down for COVID-19 and neither do all the plants growing in greenhouses across the nation in preparation for spring planting. Social distancing requirements and shelter-in-place orders in some areas make acquiring your favorite tomato variety seedlings, for example, more complicated than taking a quick trip to your local garden center. But because the federal government has deemed plant-producing businesses essential as part of the agricultural sector during the novel coronavirus pandemic, you'll still be able to get plenty of plants and gardening supplies such as soil, mulch, and tools. You'll just need to shop a little differently.
Tips to Get Growing
Your garden can be just as beautiful as any other year, despite the challenges that the current coronavirus environment presents. It just may require a little more planning before you can get your hands dirty. Here are several tips to help you navigate this unique growing season.
1. Make a Phone Call
“Call your favorite garden center and see if you can place an order over the phone or online. Many are offering curbside pickup,” says Jeanine Standard with Proven Winners, an international plant breeding and marketing company. “Several even offer ‘we’ll shop for you' services, so don’t assume that they are not open or cannot help.” Remember, your local greenhouse is likely a small business brimming with plants and anxious to get those plants to you, so give them a call.
2. Seek out Seeds
Though it may be more challenging to get veggie and flower starts this year if you can't make it to a garden center, many of your favorite plants can be started from seed with ease. These include edibles like lettuce, beans, squash, carrots, and radishes, as well as annual flowers like zinnas, cosmos, and marigolds.
Many people are already turning to seeds to fill their gardens this year, and doing their shopping online. Renee Shepherd, the founder of Renee’s Garden, a seed company based in Felton, California, has seen orders jump in recent weeks. “The number of online orders we're receiving has increased by 250% over this time last year,” she says. While seeds are selling fast, Shepherd points out that there is no seed shortage. “Last year was a great seed production year,” she says. “We have plenty of seed. It just takes us a little while to package more for you. Just be patient.”
3. Go Online for Plants
If you are not able to get young flowering plants and vegetable starts locally, you can always shop online for them. Many online plant retailers are generously offering reasonable flat-rate shipping and free shipping for orders above a certain threshold this spring.
Some retailers are experiencing shipping delays right now (some can be up to 10 days), but most are still accepting orders for plants. White Flower Farm is always a reliable choice for perennials, annuals, shrubs, and bulbs, though there might be a delay in shipping right now due to high demand. American Meadows is a great source for native plants, including wildflower seeds, and their website notes that they continue to ship orders on schedule. Finally, Nature Hills Nursery also has a huge selection of perennials, trees, and shrubs, and is still shipping orders on time.
Some economical choices for shipping include bareroot fruit varieties and ornamental trees, roses, and other flowering shrubs. Because these dormant plants don't have soil around their roots, you save on shipping that extra weight. Potted perennials and shrubs ship well, too, although shipping charges are often higher for them. You can still keep shipping costs down by paying close attention to pot size when ordering, and choosing the smallest size available. Not only do most plants in smaller pots often ship better, they will also grow fairly quickly when planted in your landscape. By the second year, you'd hardly able to notice the difference between something in a quart-size pot versus a gallon-size pot.
4. Don’t Forget the Hard Goods
Local garden centers and large retailers like The Home Depot and Walmart all offer Potting soil, mulch, containers, and yard tools for sale right now. Check if there are options for curbside pick-up, delivery, or shipping. If you need to get your hands on large amounts of mulch or landscape rock, local landscape companies can often deliver bulk orders either in bags on pallets or delivered in a loose pile. Consider splitting a big order with a neighbor to save on delivery costs.
Renting or purchasing equipment for larger spring landscape jobs, such as aerating the lawn, tilling a garden, or pruning large trees might not be feasible while you're social distancing. This is another area where local landscape companies can help. Outsource these projects, if possible, this year. You’ll be spending more time at home and in your landscape so your added investment in it may be well worth it.
5. Practice Patience
Adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to limit community spread of COVID-19 is, of course, your first priority and the priority of those providing your garden products. Expect delays in shipping and communication as we all work through these uncertain times. But remember, one thing we can be certain of, spring is here so it's time to get growing!