Bigger gardens benefit more in coronavirus times

Gale Rose

A long-time tradition in spring is to plant flowers and vegetables. This spring, with many people spending more time at home because of the COVID-19 crisis, more people are putting a portion of their garden area to vegetables, especially in the Pratt area.

Stutzman’s Greenhouse and Garden Center in Pratt has been very active in spite of COVID-19. Clovis Young, manager of the Pratt Stutzman’s facility, said their facility has had more people wanting plants for vegetable gardens than usual. And its not just the adults but she is seeing younger kids getting plants too.

“There’s more interest than I’ve ever seen before,” Young said. “It’s been busy. All the Stutzman sites are selling more. I can’t keep enough in stock. I can’t get them in fast enough.”

Her best selling vegetables are tomatoes and peppers but the rest are selling good too. More plants are on the way.

Customers have been active at Stutzman’s in Pratt since the facility opened this spring and many customers have been buying vegetable plants. Besides getting some flowers, customer Merilea Miller selected chard and cucumbers for a home garden because her daughter, who is home from college, wanted to grow some vegetables. She also got some lemon verbena, that smells like lemon, that can be used in fish dishes and in tea.

Stutzman’s has facilities in Pratt, Great Bend and Hutchinson. They offer a wide variety of vegetables and fruit plants including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, okra, squash, cabbage, shard, lettuce, strawberries, cantaloupe, rhubarb, egg plant, cherry trees, blackberry, raspberry and grapes.

One Pratt customer who purchased a lot of plant starts had been Rodger Roberts. He may have a garden that is bigger than most anyone can find in Pratt, a lot bigger. When an old house on the other side of the alley where Roberts lives went up for sale, he decided to buy it and and tear it down The city wouldn’t let him build a shed so he transformed half of the lot into a place to park his fifth wheel camper and the other half into a vegetable garden, and it is a big one.

The garden is 110-feet long and 32-feet wide. Roberts, who is semi retired and has lived in Pratt all his life, spent hours tearing down the house, digging out the basement walls, preparing the soil, including getting rid of an old tree stump and six other trees. He said he will be pitching steel and rock out of the ground for a long time.

He applied herbicide and fertilizer before he worked the ground. He installed underground water lines and electricity for an automatic sprinkling system. Then he went to work getting plants in the ground. He started with radishes and onion sets. Wife Deb lent a hand with some of the planting.

He used straw he purchased from Pratt hay man Jim Bergner to cover the ground around the tomato plants to keep down the weeds and preserve moisture. He put bedding material around his potatoes and used cow manure for fertilizer.

Robert’s father had a big garden and was the inspiration for this garden. He did most of the preparation and planting himself with some help from wife Deb and occasionally a grandchild or two.

He’s going to be very busy taking care of his garden. There are 300 onion sets, 280 potatoes, 100 asparagus, 37 peppers, 22, tomatoes, 12 cabbage plus okra, squash, cucumbers, carrots, turnips and radishes. He has already harvested and enjoyed some radishes. He will harvest all these vegetables this year except for asparagus that takes three years before it can be harvested.

“I like fresh vegetables,” Roberts said. “It keeps you busy. There’s enough for all the kids and then some.”

He enjoys the manual work in the garden until the weather turns hot. With his background in gardening, he has learned a trick or two including tying plastic sacks on the tomato cages to keep rabbits out of the garden. The wind moves the sacks and it scares them off.

Roberts’ adult children, Rachel, Ryan, Phillip, Christina and Kimberly and their families will benefit from the garden. Rachel, Ryan and Phillip also have gardens.

Roberts said he got most of his plants from Stutzman’s Greenhouse and Garden Centers plus some seeds from the Burpee Seed catalogue.