British Columbia

'Real demand' for gardening supplies as pastime blossoms during COVID-19 pandemic

As COVID-19 shutters one activity after another, one pastime is blossoming: gardening.

'There’s so few things and activities we can do right now. So anything like gardening, it’s a real blessing'

Lower Mainlanders have turned to gardening as a source of pleasure — and possible food supply — during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Getty Images)

As COVID-19 shutters one activity after another, one past-time is blossoming: gardening. 

As of Friday, British Columbians have been discouraged to attend any in-person gathering of any size at this time to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Restaurants and bars have largely shuttered and even the liquor store will be closed on Sundays. 

In response, many are taking to this enforced period of solitude and self-reflection like Voltaire's Candide, "to cultivate our gardens", albeit literally.

Hartley Rosen, who owns Figaro's Garden store on Victoria Drive, says there has been a tremendous appetite for gardening supplies. 

"There is a real, real demand for this right now. A lot of our suppliers, [for example] West Coast Seeds, are completely overwhelmed with orders," Rosen told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast. 

"At this time, there's so few things and activities we can do right now. So anything like gardening, it's a real blessing."

The timing, however, is bittersweet. Rosen has had to shut down his business and complete the Herculean task of putting the store's entire inventory online so that people can make orders via email.

"We've never had to do that before. People are just able to walk in the door and choose what they want. Now we're going to have to do things completely differently."

Some of the interest isn't fuelled solely by a desire for leisure. While governments have said food supplies are secure, empty grocery stores shelves have had people worried about a shortage of food staples.

Lisa Giroday, co-founder of the Victory Gardens Vancouver co-operative, which helps people grow food in their space for their consumption, is helping assist those looking to garden fruits and vegetables.

The business takes the name from victory gardens, which were common during the First World War, the Great Depression and the Second World War, as private and public plots of land were taken over and planted as vegetable gardens. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, they were often staffed by unemployed workers and served the dual purpose of boosting spirits and mitigating food shortages. 

Giroday says those with yards and balconies can easily plant vegetables for the upcoming season, and those limited to a sunny windowsill can plant a variety of herbs and microgreens.

She says, in Vancouver, this is the time of year to plant kale, peas, radishes, mustard greens and herbs like cilantro.

"March 28 [is] the average last frost date in Vancouver. Generally planting too much before that can risk seeds not germinating, but it's the perfect time for those early crops," she said.

Rosen says you can easily start seedlings for sun-loving plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant indoors at this time. 

And there's also garden and container prep you can get started at this time of year.

"There's lots of things like getting out weeding, building your garden beds with compost and adding fertilizer, that type of thing," Rosen said. 

"Anything we can do to be outside and create with our hands, it's so enjoyable."

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With files from On The Coast