A lone flower in a garden surrounded by other plants.
Many gardeners had their best season as a result of staying at home more due to COVID-19. Photos by Doug Oster

Gardening Green with Doug – Summer 2020, A Strange but Successful Year for Gardeners

By Doug Oster


September 1, 2020

A lost summer? Not for gardeners.

While standing in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, a text came across saying Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was closing the Duquesne Light Home and Garden Show two days early due to concerns over COVID-19. 

I still had one presentation to give and people were sitting, waiting in front of the stage. As I finished my talk and walked out of the building, I felt everything was about to change.

The gardening world was headed towards the biggest year in decades, and the first clue emerged as seed suppliers were quickly overwhelmed with orders. 

A red flower in a ceramic planter.
Containers got planted and were kept watered when needed as gardeners spent more time with their plants this summer.

Emails requesting interviews were answered in cryptic short bursts. “Victory Gardens are back,” said Linda Gordon, sales coordinator for Lake Valley Seed. “Never seen anything like this in our life,” Jere Gettle, owner of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. “Unbelievable volume of orders, many items have sold out. We are using next few days to regroup and try to get on top of the volume of things.”

It was on. 

In over 30 years of writing about gardening, I was astonished at what was happening.

As the spring lockdown eased, local nurseries literally needed traffic control, even on weekdays, as gardeners swarmed the garden centers.

“I had my best year ever,” Bob Bedner of Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse told me as we drove together in a small golf cart past greenhouse after greenhouse, which were empty at the end of June. “I’ve never seen them cleared out this early,” he added.

The garden also became an important place of solace for most of us—a place to put the country’s strife into perspective. A stroll between tall tomato plants and pure white hydrangea blooms covered in pollinators was a much-needed diversion.

Many gardeners—including this one—had their best garden seasons ever, too. Mostly, it was due to the extra time at home tending their plots. 

Seeds were started on time, plants were tucked into their spots, and when drought arrived, there was time for morning waterings to keep everything thriving.

This ‘White Dome’ hydrangea is a magnet for pollinators. There was more time this summer to look closely at the garden.
All the seeds were started on time this season as gardening was bigger than ever.

As the angle of the sun changes during these shorter days, fall is waiting patiently to arrive. It’s an important season for planting, and if this season’s gardens are any indication, the last months of gardening will lead to an unprecedented spring filled with blooming shrubs, bulbs, trees and perennials.

It won’t make a virus go away, but it will make living with it that much more bearable.


Doug Oster writes a weekly column for The Green Voice Weekly Newsletter. He also the host of The Organic Gardener Radio Show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio 1020AM. 

To see more garden stories, photos and videos go to dougoster.com.