Better late than never for spring blooms
WORTHINGTON -- Although a cool, slow-starting spring and a Worthington ban on non-essential watering delayed many homeowners' plant purchases and gardening efforts, color has nonetheless begun appearing in area yards -- and things are shaping up for a berry good late June.
"This was an unusual year," said Clint Rohrer, owner of Green Garden Place in Worthington. "We still ended up with decent sales, even with the weather and the watering ban, but normally we'd be closed by Father's Day -- and we'll still be here this week.
"There was a guy in here [Saturday] who obviously hadn't planted anything yet," said Rohrer, who has operated the greenhouse for the past 10 years. "It was hard to judge inventory due to the watering ban, so we played it really close."
Rohrer still has a good supply of many varieties of cherry tomatoes, and says he "couldn't wish" for a better stock of flowers. He will likely discount his remaining stock in the next few days.
Down Oxford Street and around the corner at Running's Fleet & Farm, assistant manager Linda Johnson had a similar report.
"It seems like it's been going OK," she said of plant sales at the store's outdoor greenhouse. "The trucks keep bringing cartloads of plants each week, and we've sold at about the same rate as in past years, even though things got going a little later than usual due to the late spring.
"We've had some beautiful stock from a new vendor, and people seem to be finding alternative ways to get their watering done."
Johnson said Runnings has sold at least 10 larger, square rain barrels in recent weeks, as well as six smaller rain barrels.
"People have resorted to using rain barrels, and I know others are not letting sump pump water go to waste," Johnson said.
Another local greenhouse and nursery that has felt the effects of the unseasonable spring is Grandpa's Funny Farm, operated by Marlyn and Jolene Nystrom.
"This growing season, everything is of course behind," said Jolene Nystrom, who says they offer trees, shrubs, annuals and vegetables at their Read Avenue farm a few miles south of Worthington. "People probably cut back more on the vegetables than anything, due to rain and the limited time to get things in.
"We still have a lot of flowers left, more than we would other years at this time, so we're running sales on items right now. We really have a wide selection of things still available."
While berry picking would normally be getting underway at area strawberry farms, including Schumacher's Berry Farm in Heron Lake and Getting's Garden in Sanborn, Iowa, shortcake lovers will have to bide their time for roughly another week before sinking their chops into regional strawberries.
The answering machine at Schumacher's advises customers that sweet, juicy berries will be available by the last week of June, and Mary Getting of Getting's Garden had a similar story.
"One year we opened on June 22, but this year may be our latest opening in 28 years," said Getting. "We're looking at June 24 as our possible opening, obviously because of the cool, late spring in the area.
"Last summer, when it was so dry, we were able to irrigate the berries from a pond we pump out of, but there just haven't been enough warm, sunny days yet to ripen the fruit."
Still, Getting said the strawberry plants look "the healthiest they have in a long time, and we are anticipating a really good crop -- there should be a bounty of berries before too long."
Strawberry seekers can find their treasure in either direction on Highway 60 with just a 20-minute ride northeast to Schumacher's, or a 35-minute trip south to Sanborn, where Getting's Garden offers a well-rounded berry experience.
"You can pick your own berries -- we provide the containers at no cost, nice flats that fit into a carrier -- and you hop on the 'Strawberry Express' out to a patch in the field where a patch foreman meets you and shows you the right row to pick in," Getting detailed.
"Or, we do have pre-picks, sold by the quart or in six-quart flats at our market," she continued. "We really want it to be an experience here, more of a destination, for kids of all ages. People say they have a lot of fun when they come out."
Getting urges strawberry lovers not to be discouraged by the late start, noting the strawberry season typically lasts up to three weeks and there should be plenty of berries for people to enjoy this year.
The promise of other berry treats -- jams, strawberry shakes, sundaes and slushies, pies, muffins, donuts and more -- awaits buyers at Getting's Garden, as does the option of purchasing new water bottles designed for mixing "berry healthy drinks," according to Getting.
"I saw them on Dr. Oz and called the company to order some," Getting said. "You can infuse different kinds of fruits -- of course strawberries and raspberries, but other fruits when those are not in season -- to create your own healthy, great-tasting water."
Getting says their market will have samples of "everything," and she hopes people will soon take advantage of their anticipated bountiful berry crop -- if they can hold on for just another week.
"We want people to come and enjoy being outside, picking some healthy fruit," Getting said. "In the heart of the season, the smell from the fields is wonderful."
For hours and strawberry opening dates, call Schumacher's Berry Farm, Heron Lake, at 507-793-2288 or Getting's Garden, Sanborn, Iowa, at 712-729-3301, or view their websites: gettingsgarden.com or schumachersnursery.com. Green Garden Place, in the Ace Hardware parking lot, is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Grandpa's Funny Farm, 31463 Read Ave., Worthington, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Runnings Fleet & Farm's greenhouse is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.