Business Q & A

Five questions with Marty Johnson

Marty Johnson followed his father and grandfather into the gardening business and has now run Johnson's Garden Centers for decades.

It's been a good run, as the business has added locations. His brother Linden split off the landscaping business, Johnson's Legacy Landscapes, two years ago. Another brother, Wes, owns Hesston Plant Co. in Hesston.

Marty Johnson likes gardening and does all his own work.

Johnson, 55, and his wife, Nancy, have two children, Jeremy and Kristen, who work in the business.

1. How's the season going so far?

Our business is really affected by weather. If we get half a dozen rainy weekends during the year at the wrong time, it will affect our bottom line. Last year, we had our spring open house and got 5 or 6 inches of snow. We closed at noon. It was a lot better this year and we had a very good weekend, even with K-State playing basketball.

2. How have you fared during the recession?

We've done pretty good. Our business is mostly to the homeowners and do-it-yourself people and they're not traveling or spending a lot of money, so that discretionary income is being spent at home. We've noticed people doing more things themselves. And we've noticed the past two or three years more home vegetable gardening and urban gardening where people are raising their own fruits and vegetables on decks and patios. And we're seeing a lot of younger gardeners.

3. Which plants die most often?

Probably the pine trees and some oaks and redbuds, and the reason they die is that they are overwatered. They get planted too deep and people water every day and the water runs into the heavy clay soils. The roots just don't get enough oxygen.... There are ways they can prevent that: Plant the trees a little higher and amending the soil properly and how much they are watering.

4. Any business advice?

Hire very good people. We've had times when staff maybe was not what it should have been. It is a whole lot easier when you have people you can delegate things to and not worry about the business.

5. If I drove down your street, could I pick out your house by the landscaping?

You might be able to. It's nice, but it's not like Botanica.