Not finding the items you’re looking for at the garden center or home improvement store? Are you thinking you missed the memo advising you to buy all your gardening supplies—from plants to pots, soils to supplements—early in the season? Well, you didn’t miss the memo, and your neighbors didn’t buy out the stores—even the online stores!—before you started shopping. What we are experiencing, friends, is an honest-to-goodness garden supply shortage. It’s not just you. We’re all in this together.
There are valid reasons for these garden supply shortages, too. More on that in a moment. But before I go any further, know that your whole gardening season is not lost! You haven’t missed your chance to plant and sow and enjoy the results of your hard work in the form of food and flowers. As a coach would say about his losing team in May, its early and there’s still a lot more baseball left to play in the season. The same is true for gardening. Early spring is just that—early. The coming weeks will see a rebounding of supplies and offer you an opportunity to catch up on the season.
Reasons for the Garden Supply Shortages
As I said, there are good reasons for why what you’re looking for at the garden center is out of stock.
Increased demand. The hobby of gardening saw upwards of 20 million new participants in 2020 as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns. Why? People were housebound and many of them decided to spruce up their yards with flowers and shrubs and try their hand at growing their own food. The houseplant trend got trendier, too, as people added some greenery to their homes to feel closer to nature (not to mention prettying up their Zoom backdrops). And out of those 20 million new gardeners, it seems like a whole heck of a lot enjoyed it well enough to continue for 2021. Did you build a couple of raised beds last year? You’re probably going to add another five this year.
Transportation issues. It’s not just cars and furniture stuck on cargo containers at the nation’s ports as labor shortages and quarantining procedures continue. Many of the raw and finished materials used in horticultural supplies come from abroad. Getting them from Point A to Point B and then into your hands has been a greater problem than most people realize. A cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal for several days didn’t help matters, either.
Production predictions. The popularity of and demand for garden products in 2020 was unprecedented. When determining how much to grow, order and stock, is it risky to use numbers from such an outlying year? What if demand in 2021 wasn’t as high as it was in 2020? Folks all along the supply chain had to make sound business decisions months ahead of the gardening season. Who could predict we’d have a second consecutive banner year?
What to Do While You Wait
Eighteen of the 20 items on your garden supplies shopping list are not currently available. Now what? Here are a few options:
Use the time to plan and prepare. I personally complain each year that spring comes fast and goes even faster. Supply shortages are like a forced slowdown, a time for you to plan your crop successions and what’s going where, make repairs and even create extra garden beds.
Try something new. Not seeing the tomato varieties you were searching for? I bet there are tons of okra plants available, or mustard greens or a different pollinator plant or … My point is that now is the perfect time to go with Plan B or Plan C (or D or …). You might find you enjoy the new challenge.
You’re right on schedule. Many gardeners get excited with the first warm days of spring and plant their summer crops or tender annuals too early. Has that ever backfired on you when the season’s last cold weather comes through? Here in the Northeast we have had some gloriously warm and sunny days, but the majority of the days are still cool, too cool for items like basil and tomatoes and petunias to really take hold and thrive. You’ll find that your garden will actually grow faster and better when its planted when the weather is consistently warm.
One last thing: Do know that your garden product suppliers are working around the clock to get those delayed items into your hands. They’d love to see you that you waited. Meanwhile, read a good book and plan on how to make your gardening dreams a reality.