LONDON – Mix and match varieties of your favorite summer veggies this year with a trip to Davis Seed.
The long-time bulk seed company moved this spring from its downtown London location to a new space at 195 Maple St.
The new location enables new owner Billie Green and her husband, Nathan, to keep the store running year-round. In addition to garden seeds and plants, the store now offers large quantities of hay, straw, fertilizer, soils and mulch, as well as propane, bird seed, tools and an organic line of mosquito repellent.
Billie has also added a selection of jellies, jams, spices, sauces and beef jerky.
But the decision wasn’t easy.
“My husband used to go into the downtown store with his grandpa,” she recalled. “It was really hard for us to move over here.”
Billie is the fourth owner of the 90-year-old business. Mary Davis founded the garden center in 1926. Her husband ran a fruit market and IGA in the location that now houses KFC and Long John Silver’s, Nathan recalled.
Sam Sollars bought the seed business from Davis in 1988 and Sharon Garman purchased the company about 10 years later. Billie purchased the business from Garman in January 2015. It remained in the same downtown storefront until Billie opened the doors of her new location in March.
Her message is simple — everyone can grow. That message is featured prominently in the new store on a banner that includes a photo of her toddler in a corn patch.
“I like to help people eat healthy,” she said. “Even if you live in the city, there’s a lot you can grow with container gardening.”
The popularity of container gardening has shot up in recent years, Billie said. Tomatoes and peppers are popular container plants. But today, nearly every vegetable seed is available in a dwarf, pot variety — even eggplants, she said.
The popularity of herbs has also grown recently, she said. Davis Seed offers a full line of herb seed varieties for an herb garden.
It’s also popular to combine herb and container gardens. For example, Billie grew an Italian container garden last year that included a tomato plant, oregano, basil and parsley.
Sprouts and microgreens are starting to trend, she added. Davis Seed offers a selection of both.
Traditional seeds and plants available include tomatoes, peppers, onion sets, seed potatoes, rhubarb, strawberry plants, beans, corn, peas, lima beans, horseradish, asparagus, cabbage, melons, squashes and sunflowers, among others.
The seeds still fill mason jars and cloth bags lined along the counters, reserving the feel of the old downtown store.
Billie works hard to offer plants grown locally, while many of the available seeds are heirloom.
“They’re sustainable,” Nathan explained. “In the event that seeds are ever difficult to get hold of, you could take one tomato, dry it out, use the seeds the following year, and grow the same tomato. With hybrids and genetically modifieds, you don’t get the same thing.”
In dabbling with heirloom seeds, Nathan grew a variety of green beans that hadn’t been planted in roughly a century. They weren’t his favorite, but they were fun to grow, he said.
His favorite food to grow is tomatoes. Billie’s favorite is cucumbers — both to eat fresh and to pickle. She also loves to grow salad veggies — or, more specifically, to eat handfuls of lettuce fresh off the plant as she is weeding her garden.
“I love being outdoors, being able to know I put something in the ground and it came up and I can eat it,” she said. “I teach my kids that not everything came from a grocery store — someone had to grow it. I can take my kids to the garden and show them where it came from.”
Billie and Nathan both graduated from Madison County schools. The high school sweethearts have been together for 31 years. They have six children ranging in age from 3 to 27.
“I love owning this business. I love my customers. I love gardening,” Billie said. “I learn as much as I teach.”
In the future, Billie hopes to incorporate a sort of farmer’s market and deli.
Current hours for Davis Seed are 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information, find Davis Seed Service on Facebook.
Reach Audrey Ingram at 740-852-1616, ext. 1615 or on Twitter @Audrey.MP