The trusted resource.

The lack of water is the biggest issue facing the nursery businesses in California. In the long term our state hasn't built a new reservoir in the last twenty years. While we have certainly come a long way with conservation , with the massive increase in population conservation will not cut it by it self. I don't know if we have the collective will to start a new water project until things become dire, which may be sooner than later. Even if we did, that's a long term solution. Short term we are in the midst of a declared drought with the prospect of extreme water shortages, if we don't get a lot of rain this winter. Remember, it does not rain here again until October! No summer rain. We have a mini drought every year. I remember in the 80's our county baned all new plantings, unless you had a well. Talk about a business stopper.

Here is what we are going to do. Education and outreach now. Don't wait for people to come in looking for drip systems, mulch, drought resistant plantings, etc. We need to let them know now. Education is the key to the small garden centers survival. We have to become the trusted resource for the customer. We need to lead the way when showing how to garden in California. The idea that we can just continue to garden like we live where there is summer rain has to stop. We live in a unique climate, and our gardens should reflect that fact.

We want to be a vital, trusted resource for the gardener. “How can I maintain my landscape during a drought?” We need to offer solutions. Should we be selling redwood trees in the hot interior of the state? We need to help educate so better solutions, like drought resistant Deador Cedars are planted instead of Redwoods. Sure, most well run garden centers do that anyway, but if the suburban neighborhoods being planted around here are any indication, a lot more needs to be done.

The small, local garden center has a huge opportunity here. While the chains and box stores sell plants, and garden supplies at prices that the smaller independent couldn't match, and shouldn't, they have no advantage when it comes to education. Using the mediums available to us we can compete on equal footing with the big boys and girls. We need to have a lot more interactive workshops. We are going to expand our demo vegetable garden so that it can be used to educate, as well as feed us. How about a series of workshops on high intensive gardening held right in the garden at the garden center? “Learn how to grow food organically with our summer series”. See how to plant seed, fertilize, irrigate, harvest, pest control, etc. all while doing these things in the demo garden.

The time is ripe for a whole new activism on the part of the local garden center. Sometimes we in the garden center business are so worried about alienating any customer that we don't take the risks that are needed. “I am so sorry but we don't carry Miracle-Gro, try our Marine Cuisine instead, and here is why it's better.” “We don't sell pop up sprinkler systems, but we have a great drip irrigation system that might save you money on water while making for healthier plants.” You get the idea. Our climate and topography is so different than most places that the new folks who move here are usually perplexed, and go through a long and expensive learning curve. If we can shorten that curve then we have succeeded.

Here is a video of the vegetable garden area at the nursery.