John Keuper

John Keuper of Island Pride Gardens has had a stellar year so far for vegetable seed sales. He is seeing keen new faces come to the garden house in Wood Islands looking for vegetable seeds to create their own vegetable garden. The activity has proven popular after COVID-19 had come to PEI and many residents were confined to their homes looking for something to keep them busy. Island Pride and other gardenhouses on PEI opened for in-person shopping May 31.

Submitted photo

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Packets of vegetable seed have been flying off the racks in stores across eastern PEI this year.

For John Keuper of Island Pride Gardens in Wood Islands, an overwhelming number of first-time gardeners have purchased seeds and supplies to fill their time when the province locked down due to COVID-19.

“There is a learning curve but I was pleased to see people getting engaged with nature again,” Mr Keuper said.

His business was able to adapt with relative ease to the conditions this year presented. Providing curbside pickup at the start of the season before stores could allow in-person shopping got sales rolling.

Yellow bean seeds in particular were a hot commodity.

Mr Keuper ended up dipping into his commercial seed supply to accommodate the demand at one point. Turnips and parsnip seeds have also proven popular as well as potting soil.

“The seed display was mostly empty for the first time in 30 years,” he said.

Arny Nabuurs, of Nabuurs Garden Centre on the MacDonald Highway just outside Montague, echoed the same sentiment.

He has seen overall garden supply sales climb 25 per cent.

To go along with increased seed sales, 90 to 95 percent of the garden supplies have sold. In a typical season sales would be about 75 per cent for the same products.

“It’s something you can’t put a definite number on,” Mr Nabuurs said.

“This year has definitely been a bonus.”

Seed packet displays were restocked multiple times throughout the planting season at Nabuurs. Among the most popular were tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, carrots and corn.

Brenda MacLean, seasonal manager at Stewart & Beck Ltd in Montague, reordered seeds four times to keep up with the increased demand. Each order contained 100-150 packets of seeds.

In a typical season, Ms MacLean meets with her sales representative at the start of the season to place a one-time order.

However, “(Seed sales) have been through the roof this year,” she said.

Starter kits, which contain a tray and pod to start seeds indoors, were also popular among first-timer gardeners. Sales have been steady since spring and growing demands have created a shortage of potting soil at the moment.

Yellow bean seeds are among the most popular at Stewart & Beck Ltd. These are currently also sold out.

A challenge in 2020 has been workplace restrictions which sometimes interrupted delivery to the store.

Otis Butler, of Butler’s Clover Farm in Murray Harbour, has felt equal pinch from his seed supplier and suspects the same reasons for the shortage in product.

Mr Butler re-ordered seeds as he watched his sales double. Sales typically start around mid-May and he has already made his third order.

“Everything is up a wee bit,” he said, noting he’s also seeing more people shop locally for their gardening supplies this year.

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