As the worries over COVID-19 continued into spring and summer months, a massive interest in home gardening has taken hold over the area.
“As soon as everyone went on lock down, the extension office kicked into gear,” said Ellen Ulmer, the master garden coordinator with the Penn State Fayette County Extension office.
Ulmer said they saw interest in the master-gardener webinars that were available to view free from Penn State as well as a series titled “Victory Garden Reinvented” to teach gardening that ran for a couple of months.
“And it exploded,” Ulmer said. “Thousands of people signed up for it, which would indicate great interest.”
Ulmer said the extension also held Zoom sessions related to gardening that attracted between 500 and 3,000 viewers.
“They had time, and they were thinking ‘we won’t always have a store to get to and we won’t always have access to fresh produce’. So they wanted to try their hand at gardening.”
Ulmer said the beautiful thing about the videos is the fact they’ve been pre-recorded and always available to view on the extension website at www.extension.psu.edu.
Local businesses specializing in gardening materials have also seen a dramatic rise in people taking to gardening.
“We sold more garden vegetables this year than normal,” said Marilyn Cullurale, the owner of Cellurale Garden Center in Lemont Furnace. “More people are planting.”
Cellurale said many people realized they weren’t going on vacation this year, so the money they had saved went to their gardens and other home improvements instead.
“When you’re quarantined in a house, there’s something about coming outside after winter and seeing some beautiful plants makes you feel good,” Cellurale said.
Cellurale added that there was an element of fear, too, as people were stocking up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and food, they also stocked up on garden plants.
“It makes them feel secure,” Cellurale said.
Cellurale said they started selling early on March 13 and quickly sold out of all their products as people were buying plants when the plants were still very small and then taking them home and babying them until they were ready to be planted in the ground.
The demand was so high, they closed the shop a month ago and will reopen in the fall when the mums will be ready to go on sale.
“We’re busy every spring, but I’ve never seen it like this,” Cellurale said.
Jody Miller, an employee at Miller’s Greenhouse & Flower Shop in Smithfield said they’ve seen a similar demand at their business.
“Everyone was buying anything they could get their hands on,” Miller said, adding the customers even started buying the smaller plants because that’s all that was available. “There’s definitely been a rise in home gardening.”
Miller said she’s seen people who had saved money for a vacation that never happened deciding to put it into their homes for projects instead.
Miller said they were busy since they opened in late April, selling out of items they’ve grown in their greenhouse and turning to purchase items from other places to try to keep up with the demand.
“We normally have vegetables to sell through the Fourth of July, but they were gone by the third week of May,” Miller said. “It’s been an interesting season.”
Miller said the sales have slowed down with no vegetables left and some plants still on sale along with trees and shrubs and a selection of perennials, but they, too, are gearing up for the fall season.