Sumter Garden Centers are seeing more and more novice gardeners seeking joy during times of stress

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As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, some are starting to plant tomato plants for the first time, and hardware stores, one of the few essential businesses allowed to operate right now, have no shortage of customers. to seek advice. on what to grow and how to do it.

Some might take up gardening for the first time for the sake of visiting grocery stores, and others might create vegetable and flower gardens because it is a calming and productive activity to try during a tough time for everyone. world.

Sue Timmons, a horticulturalist who works in the garden section of Simpson Hardware and Sports on Wesmark Boulevard, said the store has seen more customers than in a typical spring come asking for advice on starting their first gardens.

“We have a lot of first-time gardeners coming and people who have done it several times before,” she said.

She believes the motivation of Sumter residents to grow vegetables this year came from a combination of factors, including improving their overall health and because starting a new project is something for individuals and families who have been locked inside. She said some initially worried about a possible food shortage during the pandemic and wanted to make sure they had vegetables for their families.

She said clients inexperienced in gardening are open to advice and asking for help.

Timmons said both the seedlings and seed packets have been popular this spring, and she tries to tell customers which seeds will grow quickly and easily if they choose to go this route.

“If they start now, it’s best to do tomatoes and peppers, and it’s hot enough to make squash and zucchini from seeds very easily. They go up really fast,” she said.

She said people also buy flowers to accompany vegetables in their gardens and around letterboxes and smaller flower beds. Customers were also expecting deliveries of tropical flowers such as mandevilla to brighten up spirits.

“We have a lot of people growing flowers and making fancy pots and decorative items, happy and happy,” she said.

She said many customers wore masks and kept their distance from other shoppers. She said Simpson also offers curbside service, and employees will pick plants for customers and bring them to their vehicles. She said most of the people who took advantage of this service were gardeners who already know what they want, but anyone is welcome to order plants this way.

At Lowe’s on Broad Street, Shannon Gordes, a customer service associate, said the store’s garden center had also seen more customers than usual for this time of year, “mainly because of recent events.” hot and spring sales.

She said so many customers buy vegetable plants that home improvement store vendor Bonnie Plants “had to start taking trips almost every day to fill their tables. However, those with a little more patience are buying. always loose seeds “.

Gordes said younger customers in particular were looking to start a gardening project, and the store offered advice.

“Clients take advantage of this downtime at home to start new projects. Some come with a little knowledge of the basics of online research while others feel completely lost. We can help them see that it’s not as scary as it first appears and just takes a little patience, ”she said. “I have certainly seen a surge of interest from the younger generations wanting to create new gardens recently.”

She said wholesale orders for mulch and soil were popular sellers, and people were also buying flowers and fruit trees.

Although she said she saw more customers and store workers wearing gloves and masks, some customers did not always remember Gov. Henry McMaster’s requests for social distancing. She said Lowe’s had placed signs around the store to remind customers to keep their distance from each other and from store employees.

Front Porch Botanicals, which debuted last January in Sumter through Farmers’ Markets and the Sumter Iris Festival, sees people more interested in keeping their property looking beautiful during the area’s springtime and as something to keep them occupied.

Angie Rickard, who runs the business with Kevin Rickard, said free area home delivery and curbside pickup are available to help comply with social distancing requirements.

“We have had a lot of people reaching out to us recently. I think being at home and with the great weather that we have had people are working outside in their yards and gardens,” she said.

Rickard said customers can call or message the company on Facebook to order hanging baskets, vegetable plants, herbs and more. Available plants are posted on the Front Porch Botanicals Facebook page, and the company can send photos of the plants that owners have chosen to customers for approval. It accepts cash, checks or phone payments.

Rickard said for small orders, the company can usually prepare them the same day, while special hanging baskets or combinations that need to be organized can take longer.

“For curbside pickup, we have a container that they drop their payment in when they pick up, and for deliveries, they can leave it outside for us, and we pick it up when we deliver,” a Rickard said.