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Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 11:41am

Nurseries, Garden Centers OK In Drought

Georgia’s last drought shut down half of the state’s nurseries and garden centers by some estimates.

It was a double-whammy with the sour economy.

The current drought, however, has not hit the growers quite as severely so far.

“Water supplies still seem to be in pretty good shape, and what hurts us as much as anything is when we go into water restrictions,” said Chris Butts, director of legislative, environmental and public affairs for the Georgia Green Industry Association. “We’ve been fortunate enough this year not to have any new restrictions put into place.”

The three-year drought that ended in 2009 forced state officials to enact strict water rules.

However, Butts said the hot, dry weather brought sales to a sudden end for lots of nurseries.

“Spring was pretty strong,” Butts said. “Traditionally, we’d like to see the season stretch into May and even June. This year, when it got hot and dry a little faster than normal, things came to a more abrupt halt just after Mother’s Day.”

Butts said the growers who survived the drought a few years ago are stronger and more efficient, so they should be in good shape to weather the current hot, dry weather.

Georgia growers produced nearly 700 million dollars in ornamental horticulture in 2009, the most recent data.