GARDENA, Calif. — Living through a pandemic can wreak havoc on your mental health, but Sunflower Farms owner Wendy Akiyama says help can be found right in your own backyard. After all, there’s nothing like a basket full of flowers to relax your body and mind.

To her, happiness is digging in the dirt with her hands.

“People are just dying to have something to grow,” said Akiyama. “They want to be connected to the Earth again. Just flowers, vegetables, indoor plants, trees, shrubs are all going and all of the necessary soil amendments and fertilizers are flying out of here.”

What You Need To Know

  • Edible gardens are the most popular being planted by first-time and lapsed gardeners

  • Wendy Akiyama and her husband Ron were featured in an episode of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo

  • Kathy Kellogg Johnson was inducted in the 2020 Green Industry Hall of Fame

  • Kellogg Garden Products produces organic garden soils and plant fertilizers

Nurseries and garden centers are essential businesses, but for Akiyama, keeping the shelves stocked has presented some unexpected challenges. When residents were first ordered to stay at home, there were concerns of a seed shortage, but now, soil is the hot commodity.
“We were lucky this week to get this shipment in, which is going to be completely gone by the end of week,” said Akiyama. “So every week now we are struggling to keep supplied and that’s been one our greatest challenges because of this resurgence in gardening.”

With people wary of visiting the grocery store amid the ongoing virus surge, many are choosing to grow their own food for both sustenance and safety. According to a survey conducted by Kellogg Garden Products, Edible gardens are the most popular with many new and returning gardeners and they expect interest to grow next year.

“One of the trends here is a large contingency of first time gardeners,” said Akiyama. “And they are eager to put things into the ground that are easy to grow and they can have success with. So one of things that we teach them is to be successful, you need to have the right soil for the right plant.”

That means raised bed soil for planter boxes, cactus soil for succulents, and natural garden soil for plants and vegetables. Demand has been so high, it’s been increasingly difficult for Akiyama to maintain her inventory and compete against big-box retail. Kathy Kellogg Johnson is Chairman of the Board at Kellogg Garden Products and was recently inducted in the Green Industry Hall of Fame.

“You know during these very uncertain times, gardening is kind of centering,” said Johnson. “We can all go out and bring in beautiful flowers we grow outside. We get our hands in the dirt and it smells so fresh and we’re connected to the Earth. And then we can bring things we grow like food.”
For many, it’s a hobby that’s turned into a passion and a way to enjoy the time we spend at home so Kellogg has been working to make sure mom-and-pop-shops like Akiyama’s have enough soil to supply their customers.

“Most of the customers that we have that visit our garden, come here because it’s therapeutic,” said Akiyama. “They like to walk around the gardens, select something to plant, go home, put it in the ground and watch it grow.”