Growing green shoots is helping more Red Deerians overcome the pandemic blues.
“I think we’re definitely seeing more interest in gardening this spring” — including among young people, said Ken Lehman, ecological services operations co-ordinator for the City of Red Deer.
Available tracts of land in the City of Red Deer’s public garden plot program were eagerly claimed within days of becoming available in April. This, in itself, isn’t unusual as “typically it goes in hours,” said Lehman.
What’s new is the number of calls that have come in to the city from people who have questions about planting backyard gardens.
“People are asking, ‘How do I do this in my backyard?’ And I love seeing that,” said Lehman, who feels gardening is a great activity for this time — as long as people remember to distance from others.
Many Red Deerians without space for backyard gardens have taken advantage of garden plots at four City of Red Deer public garden sites: Michener Gardens, with 72 plots, Piper Creek Community Gardens south of the landfill with 80 plots, Parkside Gardens at 5320 67 St., with 132 plots and Twin Spruce Gardens (across from the county firehall) with 58 plots.
Dozens of garden boxes are also available in community parks and green spaces throughout Red Deer through a partnership between the city and community associations.
Returning gardeners get first dibs on whether to re-apply for one of the city’s 242 garden plots, but about 100 of these tend to become available to new gardeners — and are quickly snapped up.
Lehman believes more people are discovering their green thumbs because gardening is a safe activity that can be done outdoors during the pandemic. Many young people have also started to plant and seed.
He believes there’s a growing awareness of the nutritional benefits of growing your own food, through the eat local movement, for example.
The city garden plots are kept pesticide free — although ecologically sensitive pest control products can be considered, according to a list on the city’s website. Organic fertilizers are promoted over synthetic or chemical ones.
Lehman said all gardeners are being asked to follow Alberta Health Services protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19. He urges users to obey all signage.