Gardens grow as pandemic brings us closer to home

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They’re growing all over Ottawa this spring: raised gardens in the backyard and converted flower beds in the front, re-tooled to grow fresh produce near their homes.

Urban gardening can be the new leaven and sow new toilet paper as families seek to grow fresh food within the safe confines of their own property.

Social media feeds are full of garden boxes for sale. Giant earth cubes crouch in the aisles, waiting for this weekend, or perhaps warmer weather.

Greta Kryger advises beginners to moderate their expectations for an exceptional harvest. (Hallie Cotnam / CBC)

Interest in the Ottawa Edible Gardens Group has exploded since the arrival of COVID-19, with membership increasing from 3,000 to 4,600 in just two months, gaining access to Valerie Sharp, one of the group’s administrators . She said most of them are new to gardening, many taking the opportunity to spend more quality time outdoors with their families.

“We see a lot of parents involving their children,” said Sharp. Any other reason she hears? “My husband had time to build the boxes. “

They plow lawns. They tear up the lawns.– Valerie Sharp, Ottawa Garden Edible Group

But it’s not all loamy soil and sunlight. The pandemic is pushing some people to take what could have been considered drastic measures.

“There is a slight shade of fear … about food security,” said Sharp. “They plow the lawns. They tear up the lawns. “

It’s not a cheap hobby either. “People invest hundreds of dollars in boxes [and] several hundred dollars in soil and compost, and all their time. ”

It’s also an investment in self-sufficiency, said the founder of the gardening group, Telsing Andrews.

“In times of insecurity, people are looking for something they can potentially do to control the situation,” said Andrews. “It’s a way to build resilience, or the feeling of resilience. “

Goodbye front lawn, hello garden. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

Strong demand

Unable to follow orders, Greta Kryger had to cut its online seed business, Greta’s Organic Gardens.

“Anyway, I lost a lot of seeds because people were going too far and ordering just twice as much as they really needed,” said Kryger. “We have three times more gardeners this year than usual. “

Kryger encourages beginners to stick with it, even if their gardens don’t produce a bumper crop. “They will get something,” she said. “Not everything will fail. “

They should still make an effort to develop their gardening knowledge, added Kryger. Just Food Farm has information for people starting the front yard or raised gardens, and the Edible Ottawa Gardens group on Facebook is a treasure trove of proven growers ready to help.

“The first step is to fail”

And don’t worry about failing, said Tom Marcantonio, a well-known local gardening educator who has been flexing his green thumb for decades.

“The first step is to fail. We all did. Everyone has to go there, ”said Marcantonio. “You don’t need a green thumb. The seed wants to grow. Just try not to hurt her too much. “

Marcantonio has followed an upsurge of new gardeners in the past few years, and thinks, “The whole thing of staying at home has really accelerated this incredibly. “

All this request means borrowing from next year’s supply of supplies. “I know a big seed supplier in our area, he needs to tap into his seed inventory for next year,” said Marcantonio.

It’s a lot of soil. (Francis Ferland / CBC)

Silver lining

Steve Schiedel, president and owner of the Big Yellow Bag soil company, has 50 drivers delivering one square meter of earth cubes. This spring, orders are pouring in so quickly that he himself had to drive. His company is still 10 days late in deliveries.

“I think people are nesting. They are at home. Normally, people are so busy, they rush to karate, they rush to and from work, they are rolled up like a top, so that now they are … walking around their yard with their coffee and thinking, ” What can I do to improve my home? “”

Schiedel, who struggled to source land due to demand this spring, said the last time he was so busy was during the economic downtown of 2007-08.

“There is a silver lining in this cloud,” he said.

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