‘This Old House’ answers questions about pandemic gardening, supply chain shortages and cold snaps

Just in time for spring landscaping projects and home renovations, Jennifer Nawada and Mark McCullough of “This Old House” joined in Boston Public Radio live at the Boston Public Library on Friday to answer questions from the public. Here are some of the highlights.

Gardening on the rise throughout the pandemic

Interest in gardening has grown throughout the pandemic, sparking a revival of the victory garden at home and pushing people to community gardens in Boston. Nawada said that in addition to the pandemic leading more people to grow their own fruits and vegetables, living in lockdown has caused many people to re-evaluate their landscaping.

“I think people have just paid more attention to their own space at home, because they’re actually able to be at home and look at those spaces and want to improve them,” Nawada said. “So I think a lot of people are trying to grow seeds on their own, and they’re trying to plant on their own and just recreate the space.”

On the rapidly changing weather in New England and “mud season”

When audience member Karen asked how to protect daffodils — and other outdoor plants — during spring cold spells, Nawada suggested that gardeners cover the plants most important to them.

“[Daffodils are] pretty tough, but if you’re really, really, really worried, you can cover them up,” Nawada said. “But I saw tulips growing covered in snow. Then [the daffodils] maybe a little late, though; it is tender foliage. If you waited a year [and] it’s your favorite thing, cover them. But I’ll leave mine uncovered.

“Some people put a leaf, some people put like an A-frame if it’s a shrub or a perennial,” Nawada added. “But if it’s for your bulbs, you know, make a little structure.”

As for larger renovation and masonry projects, McCullough warned that New England’s infamous mud season could get in the way.

“By April, especially in Boston, we may or may not have snow, but we will have lots of rain,” McCullough said. “So be warned: people [who are] coming out the door, they want to go right away, [but] they might have to deal with mud.”

On Inflation and Shortages in the Building and Landscaping Materials Supply Chain

Wood, steel and other basic building materials were in short supply last year, with the National Association of Home Builders saying 90% of builders reported delays and shortages of materials. Industry experts and homeowners are still struggling to find materials for projects.

“Availability has probably gotten worse in some cases, improved in some cases, but [it’s] still very problematic,” McCullough said. “And I don’t see any industry that doesn’t see this problem.”

While the landscaping industry has experienced plant shortages in recent years due to increased demand coupled with extreme weather caused by climate change, one of the most pressing issues facing the industry is rising gasoline prices.

“All the nurseries try to get a full truckload with every order instead of being like, ‘Oh, I’ll get back to you later today,'” Nawada said. “Everyone has to be packed, which leads to delays.”

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