B.B. Barns The Garden Company on Sweeten Creek Road was doing a brisk, if carefully managed, business on a recent weekday morning, with customers coming to buy plants and gardening supplies for their homes.

While managing the flow of customers to comply with current COVID-19 restrictions, staff were helping customers with selections for various areas of their yards. The large garden center is filled with an abundance of plant materials from impatiens and geraniums to cultivated varieties of native wildflowers and trees, shrubs and blueberry bushes.

Jesse Israel & Sons Nursery & Garden Center at the Western North Carolina at the Western North Carolina Farmers’ Market is open as well, with limitations of 10 customers at a time in the garden center and main store respectively.

B.B. Barns and Jesse Israel & Sons also are offering phone-in and online ordering and curbside pickup to customers.

Gardeners who would like to shop at a smaller venue can stop by Fifth Season Gardening Co. on Tunnel Road, which has plants for setting out, seeds and gardening supplies. This store also is observing COVID-19 guidelines.

Recent warm weather and rain have created good conditions for spring gardening this season, said Steve Pettis Jr., North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent.

“May is looking like it is going to be a great month for gardening in Western North Carolina,” Pettis said. “This is shaping up to be a great spring in the garden.”

In addition to varieties of perennials, the extension service recommends planting summer annuals such as begonias, geranium, marigold, petunia and zinnia this month.

Vegetable plants including eggplant, pepper, tomato and sweet potato also can be set out, and beans, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, okra, southern peas, pumpkin, squash and watermelon can be planted, according to extension service information.

Although area county extension offices are closed, master gardener volunteers in Buncombe County are assisting residents seeking gardening advice through a Garden Helpline. Residents may call 828- 250-4878 or send an email to buncombemg@gmail.com with their questions. Garden helpline hours are Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Soil testing is recommended for gardeners to determine the composition of soil and whether it requires amendments. To assist gardeners, the Buncombe extension office has soil test kits available outside the front door at its office at 49 Mount Carmel Rd.

After taking samples as directed on the instruction sheet and completing the sample information form, residents mail them in for analysis. When samples are received and testing is completed, gardeners will receive a report with recommendations for fertilizer and pH amendment from the agency.

Mulching beds is another extension service recommendation for healthy plants. David Crouse, extension soil scientist at North Carolina State University, said that adding one to three inches of organic mulch to the soil surface each year is an important strategy to maintain and improve soil quality.

With many Buncombe County residents gardening in clay soil, Crouse noted that pine bark and composed leaf mold are beneficial to use.

The Buncombe County Extension office is also offering an online workshop, “Gardening in the Mountains: New to Gardening in W.N.C.,” on May 21 at 11 a.m. The workshop is free, but registration is required. For more information, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/gardening-in-the-mountains-new-to-gardening-in-wnc-registration-94439022659.

Garden center hours and locations

B.B. Barns The Garden Company, 3377 Sweeten Creek Rd., is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 828-650-7300 or visit www.bbarns.com.

Jesse Israel & Sons Nursery & Garden Center, 570 Brevard Rd., is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 828-254-2671 or visit https://www.jesseisraelandsons.com.

Fifth Season Gardening, 4 S. Tunnel Rd., is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 828-412-3200 or visit https://fifthseasongardening.com/stores/asheville-market.

Hours of operation for garden centers may vary. Call or check websites for updated information.

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