The Barn Nursery, other garden centers see major uptick in traffic as spring time arrives with a different feel during COVID-19

Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / The Barn Nursery and other garden centers were busy over the weekend as beautiful weather brought customers out to get a jump start on their yard and gardens for the spring time.

Gardening has provided a much needed breath of fresh air for those looking to get outside of the house.

With rare consecutive days of beautiful and sunny weather, people have flocked to gardening centers such as The Barn Nursery.

"Folks are just tired of being cooped up," The Barn Nursery owner Jim Webster said. "It's typical spring, but it seems like now there is nothing really else to do. For every negative comment we have had of us staying open, we get 100 people who want us to stay open and tell us this is their happy place. We want people to come in and relax and enjoy their outdoor space."

Operating at 801 E. 24th St. Pl since 2004, the popular garden center has taken the necessary steps to ensure customer safety and meet their desire.

From opening a call-in curbside pickup to having three staff members sanitize every cart after store use and having five outdoor registers, they are trying to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Home deliveries have also seen a major uptick.

Vegetable plant sales for The Barn Nursery have already quadrupled from last March, reflecting a national trend as more people grow their own food during times of crisis. During World War II, millions of Americans planted "victory gardens" to supply some of their food.

Fruit trees have also been a popular purchase and have surpassed last year's sales all together.

Of the heavy foot traffic received Friday-Sunday, Webster noticed a larger increase of younger adults finding an interest in gardening.

"It is encouraging to see people wanting to learn about gardening at a younger age. My grandmother would kick us out of the house to spend outside. That's where I got the saying, 'It's spring time! Now, go play in the yard!' There is some work to it, but a lot of play. Gardening is very therapeutic," Webster said.

Ready-made gardens have been a top hit, which has included a type of tomato that is rare to find.

The Barn Nursery has featured its Cherokee Purple tomatoes that have a pinkish look and a bit of an acidic taste. Webster also expects the blooming snapdragons to be a popular among a wide variety of flower choices.

While tender annuals - such as tomatoes, squash and eggplants - are not quite yet ready to plant they are being watered on patios and should be taken inside.

With the last frost day usually occurring April 15, people are already eager to spruce up their yards and gardens during an unusual time where there are no sports or social gatherings allowed due to COVID-19.

As time has become more available, places like The Barn Nursery, Lowe's and The Home Depot still open have seen gardening take over as a major attraction.

"April or May are usually the biggest selling months for us," Webster said. "The spring time is a critical time of the year for us even though we have developed business in the fall and Christmas time too. People are at home and outside and we want to give them a safe way to enjoy being out in the yard."

Contact Patrick Maccoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com.