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Pandemic Hobbies: Iowans Going Back to Their Roots with Gardening

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GRIMES, Iowa — In these uncertain days of social distancing and staying at home, Iowans are turning to their gardens in record numbers.

It’s pretty instinctive for Iowans. According to Beth Cody, a Johnson County author who’s spent years researching the history of Iowa’s gardening, in a time of health and food worries, many residents understand that growing food is a good idea, spending time outside in the sunshine is healthy and seeing the miracle of seeds becoming plants and the beauty of flowers helps us mentally.

“[It’s a] stress reliever. A lot of people are stressed right now and so forth. But then also, just that you produced it. You can go out and pick fresh tomatoes and not have to go to the market, or if you’re producing an herb garden, you can go out and cut your own basil and make your own pesto with and so forth,” Mark Thoms, manager at Earl May in Grimes said. “It’s self rewarding and I think it’s keeping people home a little bit more, having family time a little bit better and together a little bit more. We’re slowing down a little bit so those a little victory gardens that everybody’s putting together is putting together some good family time.”

Earl May in Grimes and other gardening centers are essential because of the food crops they provide and say they’ve been a lot busier than normal these past few months. Thoms said it’s a lot of first time gardeners coming into their store and a lot of families wanting to have their kids experience planting seeds.

“They’re wanting to experience kind of like what grandma and grandpa did many many years ago and it’s kind of neat to see what goes around comes around once again in the whole cycle,” Thoms said.

While herbs and other crops are selling quick, Thoms said without a doubt they are selling out of seeds the most. Seed potatoes were gone well before Easter and they still can’t get them back in stock.

“We’re seeing the same thing with the seeds and we’re trying to keep them in here as much as we can just because the demand in it is everywhere. We try to stay as well stocked as we can. It’s a little bit more economic to go by seed versus by plant and that’s why it’s a lot of folks are choosing that as well, but then just again like I’ve said before, just to experience planting that seed and watching it grow. So yeah we’re out of a lot of items,” Thoms said.

For those first time gardeners, Earl May said they can walk anyone through it, but the biggest tips for a raised bed or a garden is to make sure the soil has the right amendments and then to make sure there’s enough spacing between plants.

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