Like so many other things, the impacts of lockdown on the gardening industry in the UK are already clearly going to be profound. Firstly, the garden centres are all closed to the public. For most of us this means no picking up a few things on a Saturday morning, but to the nurseries who supply them, the effects are likely to be far more significant. With orders for stock drying up, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) has estimated that up to a third of producers could go bust without government support. The timing of this crisis is particularly unfortunate for the ornamental horticulture industry, as the growing season is just getting started and vast quantities of stock may have to be left to die. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is warning that a shocking £1.198 billion in sales could be lost by the end of the year and that ‘vital growing skills’ could be lost to the country.
At the other end of the spectrum, the majority of online suppliers of seeds and plugs have been inundated by orders. Some websites require you to queue before you can view them, but many suppliers have had to stop accepting orders of seeds or are only allowing brief periods where orders can be placed. Real Seeds say they’re receiving 400 orders an hour, when they can only process 600 a week. With many people now stuck at home, it seems like many more people are taking an interest in their garden. This most likely includes people looking for a new hobby to keep themselves occupied or activities to entertain children no longer in nursery or at school, but there are also reports of some people stockpiling seeds and it comes right when the usual Spring rush is happening.
So what can we do to help?
- Be considerate. With some suppliers limiting the number of products that can bought at one time, this is the moment to have a proper sort through your seed tin. Are there things that will be going out of date soon? Do you really need a specific variety or should you possibly finish using your pre-existing stock first? If you’re a seed hoarder like me, then perhaps this is the year to rationalise things….
- Buy growers specials. Several large online suppliers are offering ‘growers specials’ – reduced rates on specific stock, provided by suppliers who find themselves with an excess. Why not consider these ahead of similar products?
- Better yet, go straight to the growers. The RHS is calling for us all to support our nurseries by buying direct from them online. They even provide a helpful directory of exhibitors for this year’s cancelled shows, to help you find what you’re looking for.
It may take a little more effort than a lazy trawl through your local garden centre, but if it helps preserve our fantastic horticultural industry, then I think it’s well worth the effort.