Friday, December 04, 2020

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Good, Old-Fashioned Gardening (and more) at Riggio’s Garden Center

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Rather than leading a rush-rush, intense, constantly on-the-go stressed life, why not take a few steps back and into the garden? This is the time of year to get down to earth, literally!

"This time of year you can plant anything – perennials, trees, shrubs, fruits, vegetables," says Beth Peno-Bubie of Riggio's Garden Center in Essex.

Beth points out, "Everyone these days is in such a rush. It's constant, everything is supposed to be instantaneous ... but gardening is supposed to be relaxing and rewarding. You plant these things, watch them grow, and they bring you joy."

Like the pastime of gardening, Riggio's is, in some ways, a step back in time.  "We started out as a small mom-and-pop store back in 1939 and now we are third generation. We've had many changes over the years but we're still a family run business that is here for our customers," she says.

"It's more the small town feel. We run our business honestly. We keep our prices competitive with the big box stores which is hard because they can buy in such huge volume where we can't," Beth admits.

While Riggio's may not have a POS (point of sale) system like some of the big stores, they are up-to-date on the technology of growing. "Dave does all of our growing on site from seed – all of our vegetables that we grow here are grown on the premises, unlike the box stores which brings them in. We plan on expanding our vegetable selection next year."

"That's nice," Beth says, "because you know they're not treated with anything. The only thing we use for insects is nematodes which is all-natural. There's no pesticides used on our vegetables."

A garden, she says, is like having a child. "You have to take care of it every day. If it doesn't rain, you have to water. You have to feed it so it grows well. If it gets cold, you have to give it clothes. "

And, like a child, gardening is a lot of work, she admits. To save time, it helps to be proactive when you plant. "You can use straw around your vegetables. It's all-natural, doesn't have weed seed in it, and helps keep the weeds from growing. It's not 100 percent but it does help."

All of the vegetable plants are started from seed and physically grown at Riggio's. All of their baskets and proven winners are grown on-site from plug as well.  Perennials, roses and shrubs are brought in from nurseries.

Riggio's carries a good selection of organic fertilizers, insect control and soils. A few of the brands include Dr. Earth, Espoma, Foxfarm, and Coast of Maine.

Deer are tricky. She finds that "everything kind of works for its own period of time and then you have to switch." Riggio's carries all-natural, organic products including Plantskydd, Liquid Fence, and Deer Out.

"Some of them smell to high heaven and some don't," she says and adds, "We only carry ones where people tell us they've tried them and they worked."

Fairy gardening has become very popular among all generations and Riggio's has a large selection in their greenhouse. "We've actually donated a quarter of our greenhouse to just fairy gardening," Beth says. "You get little kids and grandmothers who are buying for their grandchildren and they plan these whimsical, magical gardens that are all about fairies. It's amazing what people do," she adds.

But Riggio's isn't just about plants. Riggio's is a full service garden center that carries a bit of everything needed for the yard. There's a full birding section, tools, planters for inside and outside, houseplants, a large fairy gardening area, perennials and annuals, trees and shrubs, statuary, mulch and bagged stone, and a full service floral shop with a great gift shop.

"And, If we don't have something a customer is looking for, we try to get it for them through our vendors," Beth says.


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