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First-time ‘panic’ gardeners flood Utah nurseries during coronavirus pandemic

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Madison Denkers gathers plants from the greenhouse for the Wasatch Community Gardens. (Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune)

They sold out in 14 hours, said communications director Katie Dwyer. In total, there will be 1,600 cars passing through this weekend — over 30,000 plants sold.

By Jessica Miller
Salt Lake Tribune
May 10, 2020


This is the first time in the community garden’s three-decade history that its patrons ordered online and relied on garden staff to pick the perfect tomato plant for their home plots. In years past, people would line up early outside the garden gates in anticipation ready to make their picks.

But — for this year at least — the coronavirus changed everything.

“Six weeks ago,” said executive director Ashley Patterson, “we were doing the plant sale the same way we have done for 30 years.”

In the era of COVID-19, a lot can change in six weeks. Social distancing means a big gathering of Utahns hand-selecting plants at the gardens was out. Wasatch Community Gardens instead went digital, offering online ordering in late April, with contactless pickups on Mother’s Day weekend.

They sold out in 14 hours, said communications director Katie Dwyer. In total, there will be 1,600 cars passing through this weekend — over 30,000 plants sold.

Many of those who picked up plants were first-time buyers, maybe motivated by extra time at home or a desire to be self-sufficient in fear of pandemic-caused food shortage. Patterson said there were some long-time customers that couldn’t get their starts this year, as newcomers flooded and crashed their website with orders.

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