Plants, buildings vandalized at Martin Garden Center
Vandals sprayed what is believed to be Surflan on plants at Martin Garden Center in Greenville, South Carolina.
Photo courtesy of Martin Garden Center

Plants, buildings vandalized at Martin Garden Center

The Greenville, South Carolina, garden center suffered approximately $150,000 in damages and lost nearly 15,000 plants in the incident.

March 19, 2019

A Greenville, South Carolina, garden center reopened its doors March 18 after spending the weekend cleaning a mess left behind after someone broke into the facility and sprayed what is believed to be pre-emergent herbicide on its plants and buildings late last week.

“We believe what was used is Surflan, which is a pre-emergent herbicide that is orange,” says Reggie Meehan, owner of Martin Garden Center. “It was used at full strength throughout the nursery.”

© Martin Garden Center
The orange substance that is believed to be Surflan was purposely sprayed throughout the buildings and on a majority of the garden center's plants.

According to the manufacturer, Surflan, when used correctly, is a water-based low-VOC pre-emergent herbicide that provides crop safety and residual control of grasses and broadleaf weeds.

Vandals sprayed the orange substance all over the greenhouse, nursery and plants, forcing the garden center to temporarily close for the weekend and causing an estimated $150,000 in damage. About 15,000 plants are believed to have been impacted and herbicide was also poured into a water tub that fed the plants’ water supply, according to WSPA 7, the local CBS affiliate.

“Because it’s a pre-emergent, and due to the high-concentration that was put on the plants, we don't know the full effect on the root systems of the plants impacted because the Surflan isn't being watered in at ground level,” Meehan says. “Usually, you are talking about a small concentration of Surflan that has been diluted and applied to the ground. In this case, it was full-strength Surflan that was used to spray almost every plant in the nursery.”

Volunteer efforts to help restore the garden center were underway this past weekend and will continue through the end of this week.

“We've had people cleaning and scrubbing tables,” Meehan says. “First of all, the outpouring has been fantastic. We've limited the volunteers to 10 per shift [two shifts per day,] so we are having 20 volunteers in per day. People are coming by bringing us lots of food.”

© Martin Garden Center
Volunteers scrub down benches and tables at Martin Garden Center following the vandalism incident last week.

Portions of the nursery that have not been impacted have been reopened, and the garden center is selling a limited number of items. Prescheduled trucks were already due to come in this week to replenish stock before the incident occurred, Meehan says.

“We will be moving the rest of the items that were compromised [during the vandalism] inside because we can't sell the compromised items until they get a clean bill of health, and we don't expect that to happen for about a month or more,” Meehan says.

Meehan says she believes this is an awakening for all businesses in the industry because nursery stock is generally kept outside, and huge volumes of plants are easily accessible to someone who would want to destroy them.

“We have cameras in place and are located on a dead-end road,” Meehan says. “This should have been something we were able to see, but they knew where our cameras were, they did not come down our road, and we believe they came up through a wooded area. For all the nurseries out there, this could potentially happen to anybody.”