No stopping planting season

At greenhouses and garden centers, it's a different experience this year

Kristen Ray
Posted 4/8/20

The early morning clouds had given way to blue skies Saturday afternoon, and inside Little Compton’s Peckham’s Greenhouse was blooming with early spring life. In previous weekends, …

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No stopping planting season

At greenhouses and garden centers, it's a different experience this year

Posted

The early morning clouds had given way to blue skies Saturday afternoon, and inside Little Compton’s Peckham’s Greenhouse was blooming with early spring life. In previous weekends, manager Carley Peckham had seen the narrow walkways bustling with visitors as they took in the rows of ranunculus and pansies, breathed in the aromas of lavender and thyme.

Today, though, was different. Ms. Peckham stood virtually alone within the greenhouse, save for one other employee and her parents, owners Rick and Laura Peckham. Outside, a chain-link gate blocks public entryway into the building.

It is the first weekend since Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that all non-critical retail businesses in Rhode Island would have to close their physical shops, effective March 30, in efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. But for a place that offers a broad selection of annuals and perennials, vegetables and herbs, trees and shrubs, seeds and bulbs, Ms. Peckham knows that the greenhouse is, for many, a “destination;” transitioning to curbside pickup and local delivery only has been a bit of a learning experience. 

“We’re sort of adjusting to how to do the feel-good part for people and still be able to supply them with all the stuff they like to have,” Ms. Peckham said. 

Over the past week, Peckham’s has been figuring out ways to do just that; though their customers may no longer be able to browse the greenhouse grounds, they can still catch sight of current offerings and take in the colorful images of their flowers, herbs and plants posted onto social media.

“Just to remind people, and maybe make them feel good, too,” Ms. Peckham said.

The return of victory gardens?

Over at Botanica Nurseries in Portsmouth, all is still fairly quiet on the garden grounds. The nursery is not expected to open up to the public until after Easter, but already Botanica is busy scheming up innovative ways to serve their customers safely, including call-ahead, drive-thru pickup of their pre-paid vegetables, flowers and shrubs.

“Everybody has to work smarter, harder, give a little bit more,” said general manager Jim Pember. “We all just have to play ball, I think.”

When Botanica does officially open, Mr. Pember has been warned by those in the industry that this could be their busiest season yet, as more and more people turn to growing their own food instead of going out grocery shopping in the wake of the pandemic.

“I think growing food at home is going to be bigger than it has been since the Second World War,” Mr. Pember said.

It sure has seemed to be the case over at Peckham’s as, recently, seeds, seed mixes and vegetable starters have all been “flying off the shelves.” It could be a “positive” repercussion to come out of the throes of the coronavirus crisis, Ms. Peckham said, if people were to turn to growing their own plants and food – not only for their its sustainability, but for the therapeutic benefits as well.

“I think of victory gardening as good for the soul, too, not just the feeling of being able to feed yourself but being able to touch the soil, and feel connected and feel happy,” she said.

And it can be attainable by anyone during this time, Mr. Pember added, no matter the circumstances – even if a person was experiencing financial hardships or lived in a small, cramped apartment. Right now, Ms. Peckham said cold-hardy vegetables like kale, arugula and onions are good options to start outside, while things like lettuce, beans and peas are other good options for starting seeds indoors. Both encouraged first-time growers to ask as many questions as they would like in order to gain the confidence to grow on their own.

“If you can afford to buy some seed packets and it’s going to make you happy, there’s really no reason not to,” Ms. Peckham said.

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