P.E.I. garden centres predict 'renaissance for the home gardener' during COVID-19 ease-back plan
'They're just itching to get outside'
The COVID-19 pandemic has an increased number of Islanders looking to grow their own food, and P.E.I.'s garden centres are bracing themselves for what they anticipate will likely be a busy spring.
In a news briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Heather Morrison outlined details for the province's ease-back plan, which included the reopening of nurseries and greenhouses on May 22.
Peter Meijer, with VanKampen's Greenhouses in Charlottetown, said the store is already seeing customers, as it is considered to be an essential service.
"Because of our supply chain agriculture, which is an essential service, we have a garden centre attached to that essential service and our garden centre is open."
Meijer said the greenhouse is producing tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. However, Meijer said the number of customers permitted in the store at one time is being limited to ensure health measures are adhered to.
We see a lot of people who are at home and they just want something to do.— Peter Meijer, VanKampen's Greenhouses
The store has also set up an online website for curbside pickup and delivery, which for now, accounts for about 25 per cent of the business's revenue.
"I think it's taking some time for people to kind of catch on to the different methods of shopping," he said.
Meijer said the store is seeing a lot of customers overeager to get plants in the ground ahead of the planting season and has had to explain to them it isn't time just yet.
"We see a lot of people who are at home and they just want something to do," he said. "They're just itching to get outside."
Because Islanders have been stuck inside and will need to continue practising physical distancing, Meijer predicts the summer will see a "renaissance for the home gardener."
"A lot of people are looking to put in a garden for the first time, asking a lot about what soil is right for them, how they're going to do it," he said.
"We're planning on selling a lot of veggie transplants. I've had more questions about tomato transplants in the month of April than I ever had."
The tentative date of May 22 gives Jennifer Vriends, co-owner of John's Greenhouses in Summerside, "something to reach for."
Vriends has been in touch with garden centres in other regions that have already reopened on what to expect.
We're trying to encourage people to work up the earth, decide where they might want to put a garden, how big they want it to be.— Jennifer Vriends, John's Greenhouses
"We've got some great guidelines and tips from them for when we're prepared to open our doors," she said.
Even as businesses like hers begin to open, Vriends said she knows it won't be the same as past years.
"We luckily have a large retail centre where we can have one big main entrance, two big main exits. We'll have pathways throughout the store for customers to keep their distance from each other," she said.
Vriends said in just the last five days, business has been busy with people purchasing bulk compost and top soil for planting gardens.
Preparing for planting
Like Meijer, she said she's been seeing quite a few people who are new to gardening and as a result she's having to gently remind them it isn't quite time to begin.
"We're trying to encourage people to work up the earth, decide where they might want to put a garden, how big they want it to be," Vriends said.
"You're looking usually easily into the first week of June before you can safely put out different veggie transplants, many annuals, even perennials are tender to put out this time of year."
Once the Island's lilac trees begin to bloom, Vriends said people can begin to safely plant and tend to their gardens with enthusiasm.
COVID-19: What you need to know
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include:
But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.
Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.
What should I do if I feel sick?
Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.
How can I protect myself?
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
- Practise physical distancing.
More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
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With files from Island Morning