Higher interest makes it harder for gardeners to keep up with demand

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 10:02 PM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Laura Klavitter owns Planted, a gardening business in downtown Dubuque. She takes pride in being a plant matchmaker: matching customers with their dream plants.

From what she has seen from her customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, she has noticed people have picked up new hobbies.

“When we are all at home it is way more of an opportunity to start doing more interior decorating and want to care for something because we have got more time, we are spending more time in our own homes or even in the offices,” she explained.

Klavitter said higher interest in plants has made it challenging for her to keep her store fully stocked all the time, especially since she mostly focuses her store on tropical house plants.

“The house plant industry typically resides in Florida or California in the United States, otherwise it is overseas, Indonesia etc.,” she said. “So trying to get plants from these more sub-tropical regions is just a challenge to begin with and then because of the increase of demand and the increase in the overall interest in house plants, the growers in this location are struggling to keep up with demands because it takes so long just to get the plants into an actual saleable size and readiness.”

Other items high on demand? Seeds.

Klavitter said this was the first year she received a message saying her seed delivery could be delayed while placing an order.

“And when you are thinking about seed starting, I was not thinking, ‘Oh, shoot! I probably should be ordering my seeds in December or November instead of January when we typically do’,” she recalled.

According to Ray Kruse, who works as a food systems program coordinator, that delay in seed production and delivery is due to high demand and the pandemic.

“The seed houses that are selling those seeds are also dealing with restrictions inside their warehouses and that is affecting productivity a little bit,” he explained. “There are two ends that are kind of just not working together very well in terms of the supply and demand.”

Kruse said the process of distributing seeds in the country is very slow in itself. That is without taking into consideration added challenges from the past year, like shutdowns and employees getting sick with the virus.

“They deal with a lot of regulations on a normal basis and that naturally makes the process of getting seeds into the country and distributed a little bit slow,” he explained. “But it is all for good reason because our seeds are regulated so that we are not spreading disease from state to state country to country.”

If you are an avid seed-buyer or are looking to get into gardening, Kruse has two tips for you. First, place your seeds order as soon as possible.

“It does not necessarily mean you will have a quicker turn around in getting those seeds to your home, but that will get a longer lead time for those seed houses to fill your order so that you can get the seeds when you need them,” he explained.

His second recommendation is to try gardening with more rare house plants since demand on those is not as high.

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