Spring Growing Season Starting Slow for Northeast Greenhouses and Nurseries

Richard Farrar at Green Thumb flower stand in Unity, Maine, during spring growing season

Richard Farrar of Green Thumb | Linda Coan O’Kresi of Bangor Daily News

The 2024 growing season has started, but its progression seems to be sluggish in one particular area of the country. Despite a very busy year in 2023, greenhouses and nurseries across the state of Maine are reporting slow starts to their seasons this spring. 

Although the primary cause, if there is one, isn’t clear, many owners have speculated that cold and cloudy weather propagating the skies (so far) this spring might be a contributing factor. Scott Longfellow, owner of Longfellow’s Greenhouses in Manchester, ME, says “People are holding them back because Mother Nature’s telling them to,” as reported by Bangor Daily News.

Personal Gardening on the Rise Since the Pandemic 

While many northeast greenhouse owners and nurseries are hoping for a return to form for the growing season, they’ve also noted a continued positive trend amongst consumers. That would be the uptick and interest in personal and home gardening that spiked during the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in early 2020. This has been especially true for younger generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z (or Zoomers). Despite lockdowns no longer being in effect for years, the hobby and practice is still going strong, creating a new and dedicated base of customers. 

Research from the University of California | Agriculture and Natural Resources department has shown that the initial motivations for this practice during the pandemic were to relieve stress and anxiety, connect with others (such as sharing their results and asking for advice online), and grow their own food that eliminated (or lessened) the risk of being contaminated by the coronavirus. 

Presenting Greenhouse Grower’s 2024 Top 100 Growers: #25-1

The report, titled “Gardening During COVID-19,” states that “Not only did gardeners describe a sense of control and security that came from food production, but they also expressed heightened experiences of joy, beauty, and freedom in garden spaces.”

“Connection to nature, relaxation, and stress relief were by far the biggest reasons gardeners cited,” says Alessandro Ossola, Assistant Professor of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, citing the positive role that gardening had on the mental and physical health of its practitioners. 

The report also cites the need for green spaces in urban environments and the positive effects they can have on residents, as many respondents to the survey faced difficulties in finding areas where they could plant and grow. 

The Plants Maine Growers Are Preparing for New and Old Consumers 

Ledgewood Gardens of Orrington, ME, knows this to be true, with a large portion of its customer base not having access to land for personal gardening. To circumvent this, the business offers containers based around displays for balconies and porches. These plant containers require less care and make them easier to protect from pests like deer, rabbits, and raccoons.  

However, owner Karen Ramsey is also hopeful for a sunnier May, where hanging and mixed baskets of annual flowers are popular. 

Longfellow’s Greenhouses has also elevated its options for container gardening due to an increased and sustained interest in the product. While many food-bearing plants have remained popular since the pandemic, such as fruit trees and vegetables, Longfellow has also noticed his younger base of customers gravitating toward traditional houseplants, such as African violets and orchids.  

“I think it’s something that’s sticking with people and becoming part of their lives. Once you’ve had a garden, you tend to repeat it,” says Longfellow. “They’re not seeing a reason to stop. In my opinion, they’re being pretty successful at it.” 

Owner Dennis Peaslee Jr. of the Garden Spot Farm in Pownal, ME, reports that he hopes sales pick up for the spring growing season with the upcoming Mother’s Day weekend, which has typically been a big source of reliable and repeated business for greenhouses.

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