Garden centers and nurseries in Minnesota will be allowed to re-open following the update to the Stay at Home order.
Gov. Tim Walz announced updated guidance for the Stay at Home order as he extended it to May 4 on Wednesday, and it will allow more businesses to get back to work.
And the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has since released its own guidance that confirms that garden centers are among those allowed to re-open, provided they stick to a series of rules that ensures social distancing.
The main proviso to them re-opening is that they do not offer food sales on site, including food sampling, and what's more if they want to open for public sales, they will need to see if their garden center or nursery can be redesigned to "build in six feet of separation and minimize the amount of time people spend mingling at the market."
They can do this by implementing, for example, one-way traffic in and out of stores to reduce congestion at entrances and in parking lots, as well as creating boundaries using tape, chalk lines or fencing to direct shopper flow within stores.
Hand sanitizers or handwashing stations should also be put in place at entrances, and they will need enough staff to direct and monitor people.
Since the first restrictions on retail were imposed last month, many garden centers have transitioned to offering curbside pickup and drive-thru services, and the MDA is urging them to continue with this as well as delivery.
The MDA says garden centers must stick to enhanced sanitation procedures while open, including regular disinfecting of all surfaces people touch, and any workers who show symptoms of illness must stay home.
There had been growing calls from the garden center retail industry for the state to allow them to at least open their outside areas in the wake of the shutdown, with a petition launched by Chaska-based Minnesota Gardens receiving more than 8,700 signatures.
Owner Mark Buse had argued that gardening is positive for people's physical and mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis, and will also allow some to grow their own fruits and vegetables, potentially easing the demand on the supply chain.