It appears that a collective anxiety over the current pandemic has spilled over into the gardening world. I went online to order seeds and was surprised to find one source after another with messages telling me that they were not taking orders at this time, that shipments were delayed by weeks, or that some seeds were sold out. I did manage to place an order, but it’s not clear when it will arrive. I may receive substitutions. I try to think of this as adventurous.
Clearly, fed by cabin fever or rumors of food shortages, people are jumping on the victory garden bandwagon with unprecedented enthusiasm. Local nurseries were closed until recently; as of this writing, they had been allowed to partly reopen but often only for curbside pickup and delivery. With restrictions ever shifting, home gardeners are seeking multiple sources for plants, starts, seeds, and supplies. Our average last-frost date is around May 15. So we still have time to find tomatoes, peppers, and other tender vegetables.
Big box stores, which also have plants and supplies, have been open all along — that’s because they are defined as “hardware stores and businesses that generate most of their revenue from the sale of goods used for essential home repairs.” But if you want organic plants for your vegetable garden or ornamental plants that are healthy for pollinators, large chain retailers may not be your best choice. Genetically modified or hybridized seeds will not yield the same plant after the first year. Seedlings that have been chemically treated or bred to contain pesticides are also not everyone’s choice. Add to that a plant selection that alters very little from state to state, and you may go home with plants that won’t be hardy or successful in Santa Fe.
Here are some sources and ideas that come highly recommended by gardeners in Santa Fe to provide the information and supplies you need.
Go to the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Supporting farmers’ markets is always a good idea. And right now, with restaurants closed, it is especially helpful to keep their businesses afloat. Each spring there are vendors who bring plants and seedlings. There were also seeds available in late April. You can check the market website at santafefarmersmarket.com to look up vendors and find out which ones will be at the market the day you plan to go. As of this writing, social-distancing rules are in place.
The Vagabond Farm in La Puebla, north of Santa Fe, is a small, two-year-old operation that is selling seedlings for a variety of heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, and more. Email them at email@example.com for directions and to find out what’s available.
Go on Nextdoor.com or other social media sites to see what your friends and neighbors might have. You might be surprised to find seeds, extra seedlings, unused containers, or just advice that they would be happy to share.
Reunity Resources is a community nonprofit that produces food for hunger-relief organizations. In these times, they are worthy of our support. Located at 1829 San Ysidro Crossing, in Santa Fe, they are open and a source for compost, mulch, a special garden blend, and worm compost. Call 505-393-1196 for hours.
Beginners might want to hop on Zoom for the “Modern Victory Garden” class presented by Santa Fe Botanical Garden. It’s scheduled for May 7, from 10 to 11 a.m., and advance registration is required. Go to santafebotanicalgarden.org and look for the “Learn” menu. You can also contact the Santa Fe Extension Master Gardener hotline on our website (sfemg.org) and submit your questions. Our experienced volunteers are waiting to help you start a successful and productive garden.
Local nurseries are always a great resource, assuming they will remain at least partly open and have access to what you need. But it’s good to know that in times like this there are often alternatives and people working hard to fill a new need. That’s community at its best.
Stay well and enjoy your garden!
Laurie McGrath has been a certified Master Gardener in Santa Fe County for 19 years and is a founding member of the Santa Fe Native Plant Project (SNaPP). She was a co-host of “The Garden Journal” on KSFR radio. Before moving to Santa Fe she helped design a Hummingbird Garden at the Jeanne and Charles Schultz campus of Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, California.