Gardening isn’t canceled this year — in fact, it’s more popular than ever with people at home more than usual. Garden centers in Washington are deemed essential businesses, and most area nurseries are open — and swamped.

“It’s been an interesting spring, an exciting spring,” says Margaret Flaherty, who has co-owned Magnolia Garden Center for 23 years with her husband, Chuck. “A different way of doing business, but busy.”

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Like many other nurseries, Magnolia Garden Center’s customers can make an appointment to shop while social distancing (two people are allowed in every 15 minutes). Or they can email, call or order online for pickup or delivery.

“We’ve had a run on compost and soils that’s been a lot bigger than most years,” Flaherty says. “I don’t know exactly why. I guess people are home and looking at their yards and see they need some mulch.”

Other bestsellers right now: vegetables, tomato plants, fruit trees, herbs and perennials. 

Tomatoes were the hot item at the annual Tilth Alliance plant sale earlier this month. Shoppers were also looking for easy-to-grow edibles.

“What’s different this year is [the number of] people gardening for the first time,” says Laura Matter, who manages Tilth Alliance’s garden hotline. 

The last time this surge happened was nearly a dozen years ago, when First Lady Michelle Obama founded the White House kitchen garden. “There was a big uptick in gardening then,” Matter says. “We’re seeing that again now.”