Garden centres reopen today: here's how to have a safe visit

As garden centres reopen, those of us desperate to get gardening will be very pleased. But here is how to make your visit a safe one for you and others

Woman shopping at the local garden centre
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The UK government has allowed garden centres to reopen today. This is brilliant news for those of us who are keen gardeners – or have got into gardening since the lockdown. It is also great for the garden centres themselves of course who have been shut for as long as eight weeks, losing income and throwing away plants in the process.

So why has the government decided to reopen garden centres and what are the garden centres doing to keep their customers safe? Read on to find out, and see our tips on making your trip to the garden centre a safe one.

If you aren't looking to head to a garden centre anytime soon but still want to buy plants, this is where you can buy plants online.

  • If you're feeling very green-fingered, be sure to visit our garden ideas hub page.

Why have garden centres been allowed to reopen?

When the coronavirus lockdown started in the UK, all non-essential shops were asked to close. This included places like garden centres – many of which managed to move custom online or allow collection via orders over the phone.

Since shutting, many garden centres have had to throw away (or donate) plants that they have not been able to sell at huge costs. And all at a time when there has been massive demand for plants as many of us have used gardening as an escape from lockdown life.

However, it has been agreed that garden centres are well designed to reopen with social distancing measures in place. They tend to be large and open air, making it easier to keep customers apart and unlike small shops, people won't be crowded inside. The government decided that as the infection rate is now lower than it was when we went in to lockdown, we can safely reopen some businesses to help them and the economy.

What are garden centres doing to maintain social distancing?

Garden centres have had to act quickly this weekend to get their stores in shape for reopening. Their key objective has been to ensure customers can maintain a safe social distance of at least two metres at all times. They have also taken measures to protect their staff by buying the appropriate PPE (gloves and masks) and fitting clear plastic screens at the tills. 

Some have rearranged stores to make social distancing possible. Here are the measures you will see in place:

  • Trolleys will be disinfected between uses and customers encouraged to use them as they help people maintain distance.
  • One way systems will be enforced to keep people apart. Some stores will give you a map on entry so you can find what you need.
  • 2m markers on floors to show distancing are being used by some stores and markers for queueing at checkout.
  • Reduced stock means some have been able to make their stores easier to navigate with the addition of one way systems and social distancing.

What can you do to make your trip to the garden centre safe?

Although the garden centres are doing everything they can to minimise contact, you will need to do what you can too to make sure your trip is a safe one. As with any trip to the shops, take care to only pick up items you intend to buy. Wear a face covering if you have one and definitely do not go if you have any symptoms of Covid-19 – you should be self isolating for seven days.

We predict that garden centres will be very busy today and this weekend, especially as it is a bank holiday. If you can, try not to go at peak times, or wait a week or so until they are quieter. Google shows the peak times for some garden centres on their search results page so enter the name of your local centre to check.

Also adhere to the following to keep you and others safe:

  • Wash your hands before and after your trip. Take hand sanitiser with you and use before handling the trolley or any items.
  • Use card payment wherever possible.
  • Only touch what you need to. Pick one trolley and only pick up any items you want to buy to avoid unnecessary contact.
  • Acknowledge the two metre rule and don't get too close to other customers. Two metres is roughly two trolley lengths, or two big strides – but the more distance you can keep, the better.

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