Chelsea Flaman planted her first backyard garden last spring out of concern about a possible food shortage at the start of the pandemic.
Her love of growing things has now taken over, and the Red Deer-area woman is planning an even bigger garden this month, with the help of her husband Jamie and their six children.
“With everything going on in the world, we want to feed our family and teach our kids where food comes from,” said Flaman, 36. As a home schooling parent, she also intends to incorporate gardening into her lesson plans.
“It becomes a real family thing,” added her mother-in-law, Terry Flaman, who plans to help Chelsea tend her garden boxes, just east of the city.
Whether influenced by stay-home pandemic protocols or the eat local movement, more central Albertans have been taking up gardening — and local nurseries are getting busy.
Christine Cornelius, department manager and horticulturalist at the bustling Parkland Nursery and Garden Centre, said she’s especially noticed a lot of new — and younger — gardeners come in since the pandemic started.
“It’s great to see more people enjoying growing their own food,” added Cornelius, who believes there’s more awareness about the nutritional benefits of fresh, home-grown produce.
She expects some plants to sell out quicker than usual this spring, due to higher customer demand. Cornelius is seeing a big demand for vegetable seeds and potato tubers, in particular, as well as tomato plants.
“People want a lot of edibles and backyard fruit, anything, like strawberries, raspberries, and even rhubarb…”
“I’m raring to get started,” said Alice, a gardener from Sylvan Lake, who declined to give her last name on Friday. She explained she was disappointed when she couldn’t get the plants she wanted from nurseries last year because a lot of selection had sold out by the May long weekend.
This year, she’s planning to do some container gardening for vegetables and herbs, “so I wanted to get what I wanted right away” — even if it means waiting a few weeks before planting them outdoors, she said.
Glow Garden Centre expects to set up a large outdoor plant market next to the Carnival Cinemas starting May 5 to the end of the month, said Daryl Driegen, the company’s director of operations.
Glow Gardens, based in Langley, B.C., has usually been a wholesaler, but increased demand after the pandemic started has prompted the company to start selling directly to the public last year.
He believes stay-at-home pandemic protocols have spiked a gardening interest in people of all ages. “They’re happy to be in their backyards and want to beautify them… Also, it’s quite therapeutic to see something grow…”
Ken Lehman, ecological services operations co-ordinator for the City of Red Deer, expects municipal public gardens to be open for seeding on May 15 — as long as the weather co-operates so the city can bring in tilling equipment and mark out garden plots.
Almost all of the city’s public garden plots are already spoken for. This has been the case for several years, Lehman added — what’s new is a lot more novice gardeners are calling the city to ask questions and get tips for their own backyard gardens.