With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all of us, more people have become interested in gardening. But many gardeners are encountering unforeseen struggles as they seek to start planting.
We are all trying to avoid stores as much as possible, but many online sources are back-ordered or not even accepting orders right now. If you’ve run into these challenges in finding much-needed garden supplies, here are options to consider. And although these sources are great places to check out during a stay-at-home situation, these are also great options to locate garden supplies anytime!
Local Garden Center or Nursery
If you need transplants, bags of potting soil, seeds, or other basic garden supplies, call your local garden center or nursery. Often, these small businesses are more than happy to take your order over the phone. Then, they will have it ready for you to pick up — often delivered to your vehicle without your having to get out of your car. These locally-owned stores depend on local support, and you get not only top-notch customer service but you also can directly support your local economy.
Local Landscaping Company
Many gardeners need more soil or mulch than what can easily be purchased in bags. For bulk soil or mulch purchases, consider your local landscaping company. For my new raised beds, I purchased two cubic-yards of compost this way. My husband and I took our truck and trailer and they loaded the compost as we sat in our truck. They worked to limit contact as much as possible and even had a way for me to pay outside.
But what if you don’t have a trailer to haul your own bulk materials? Many landscaping companies will deliver for a fee. And, again, you are supporting your local economy by choosing this route.
Local Municipality or Tree Service
Many cities that pick up limbs from fallen trees and curbside waste will grind this into mulch and offer it for free if you pick it up. When you think about where to buy garden supplies, this one is easy to miss. But you should give your local municipality a call and see what is available. You can also call your local tree service to see if they can bring arborist wood chips to you if they are in your area. I’ve received many truckloads of mulch for free this way.
Local Farmer’s Co-Op
Your farmer’s co-op store will carry most gardening supplies you would need, without the crowds of the big-box stores. From mine, I’ve been able to purchase seeds, transplants, straw bales, organic fertilizer, organic insecticides, and bagged soil.
Local Person-to-Person Options
What about local options that might not be so obvious? Take advantage of Facebook Marketplace, local gardening groups, or even a Facebook group for gardeners in your area. Some gardeners might even have too many seedlings and would be willing to sell some of their young plants. In my area, many Master Gardeners have planted seedlings for a plant sale that has been canceled. Perhaps you can acquire some of these extra transplants this way and help an individual grower make use of those carefully-tended seedlings.
Although these local options require only minimal (if any) person-to-person contact, what about online options, like online seed suppliers and garden supply stores? You may find, as I have, many of the seed companies I usually order from are backlogged or are not currently not taking orders. Others are warning that there might be a delay. Still, it depends on the source. Smaller, lesser-known seed suppliers and online garden supply stores may be a better bet. To narrow down your options, consider asking in a gardening Facebook group (like mine) which companies are taking orders.
One other thing to note: personally, I would use caution purchasing seeds from Amazon or Etsy. Instead, stick with a reputable seed supplier. For garden supplies like potting soil or other items, Amazon is still a good choice, if you are willing to wait a little longer for shipping. Here are my gardening supply recommendations on Amazon.
Garden Center Chains
What about larger garden centers? If the above options fail, you might need to consider a larger garden center chain like Lowe’s or Home Depot. But if yours is like mine right now, this is not the best place for “social distancing.” Still, if what you need can only be found there, what are your options?
First, try to place an order online and select your order to ship to your home directly. If shipping isn’t an option, or if you need your supplies more quickly, many of these stores offer pickup services. Some may offer curbside pickup, while others require a quick trip inside the store. Though not ideal, the second option will limit your contact with others inside the store. Keep in mind as you shop online — some items have been known to run out of stock, but it’s worth checking before making an unnecessary in-person trip.
If you do need to visit one of these stores because the other options haven’t worked out for you, choose to visit the first hour they are open. They tend to be less crowded first thing in the morning and you may be able to avoid contact as much as possible (and make sure and wear a mask and gloves). Most of these stores are considered essential in most regions so they are still open.
Use What You Have
What about considering options where you don’t have to buy anything? Instead of purchasing compost and new soil, grab a hoe and work the soil that you have. Use grass clippings, newspaper, cardboard, or even fall leaves for mulch. Mix in used coffee grounds to your soil or compost for a nitrogen boost. Grind up eggshells to add calcium. Use wood ash from your fireplace to add potassium to your soil and raise the pH (but don’t use if you have neutral or high pH soil). Start composting to add organic matter to your soil.
Remember, before raised beds became a common practice, people worked the soil and used what they had on hand. (I don’t recall seeing any raised bed Victory Gardens, do you?) It may take more work, but being resourceful has its advantages.
Use Your Pantry
Since we’re starting to think outside the box, what about checking for opportunities inside your pantry or crisper drawer? Soak dry beans (like pinto beans) overnight and plant them. Grow potatoes from spuds that are sprouting in your pantry. You can do the same with sweet potatoes. You could even take your cucumber, squash, melon, or tomato seeds from what you bought from your grocery store. (Keep in mind, if it was a hybrid variety it might not grow and fruit exactly what you expected, but it might be worth a try. Learn more about seed saving here.)
Sometimes I think we make gardening more complicated than it has to be. Let’s use what we have and get creative with what we need. Maybe it can’t be what you hoped or at the scale of what you dreamed of this year, but you CAN grow some of your own food, whether in normal times or in a crisis.
Where will you buy your garden supplies this year? Comment below if you know of other sources I haven’t listed.
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