The Victory Garden may make a comeback this year, with the coronavirus emergency, and PittMoss wants to make it easier for people who decide to grow their own vegetables.
The Ambridge-based company, a 2014 winner of “Shark Tank” — for its environmentally-friendly alternative to peat-based potting soil — is offering packets of seeds for carrots, tomatoes and lettuce with every purchase of its Plentiful Organic Potting Mix, made for gardens or raised beds.
PittMoss has 20 pallets of material ready to go and will continue packing, says its president Brian Scott. All items can be ordered online and shipped directly to customers. Right now, PittMoss is discounting products to help new gardeners during their time of need.
“We were brainstorming around in the office and one of us heard the story that reminded us of the Victory Garden you heard about in World War II,” Scott says, when millions of Americans responded to the threat of wartime rationing by growing their own.
“People are talking about how this is a war against the virus, so it was kind of a natural to us. We’re already offering soil, so it wouldn’t be that much more for us to offer seeds and people wouldn’t need to leave their homes.”
PittMoss is working to secure a partner to provide seed packs, he says, and may expand the types of vegetables to include cucumbers and more. “The thought process is, people can stay home and eat rather than go out and shop for food, so what are the vegetables they can grow throughout the summer,” Scott says.
Gardening can help alleviate a little of the stress that people are feeling, he notes. And for new gardeners, the company will be offering video tutorials on its website, narrated by PittMoss marketing guru Ashley Mariani. The first class will begin in two weeks, Scott says.
Made from recycled paper, PittMoss improves aeration and nutrient absorption and uses less water than conventional peat-based mixes — which Scott calls a victory for the environment. A cubic foot of peat moss has carbon emissions equal to burning 11 pounds of coal. Most peat moss is dug up in peat bogs in Canada and trucked south.
Peat bogs are “a massive carbon sink,” Scott says. “You don’t even have to light it on fire — as soon as light and air hits peat moss, it will oxidize and release carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.”
At its Ambridge factory, PittMoss diverts paper waste — newsprint, coloring books, mail ads and cardboard — from the landfill and turns it into soils. “We are using a broader array of feedstock to prevent more and more cellulose fiber from being landfilled,” Scott says. ”Our vision is to have a hyper-local model in every major market to recycle local waste and distribute it locally as a soil.”
Since its “Shark Tank” splash, PittMoss has made its products available to roughly 200 garden centers nationwide, Scott says. It ships to online customers anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.
“When you fill a pot with PittMoss, it holds water better, you get way better aeration, really good biologicals — so plants absorb nutrients better — and because of that you can fertilize less, and water less, and still get a bigger plant,” says Scott.