Garden fever sets in and tills get ringing

COVID-19 restrictions spur growers into going planting-crazy at home


Garden seed packets are sailing out the doors as the coronavirus pandemic ignites a bit of a garden frenzy.

“We have probably sold more seeds this year than any other year,” said Brendin Johnson of Johnson Hardware. “We had to restock. Mostly vegetable seeds.”

Johnson gets his seeds from Brandon supplier Lindenberg Seeds, and even in the big city they are seeing a flurry of soil-borne activity.

“We are three weeks behind in our mail orders for seeds,” said an employee at Lindenberg’s on the phone last week. “People are calling us all the time, in a panic to get this packet of seed or that one. We are running out of lots of seeds.”

Home Hardware in Killarney is seeing a similar rush on their seed sales this spring.

“Tomato seeds are definitely the top sellers,” said Dylan Toews at Killarney Home Hardware. “We get our seeds from OSC (Ontario Seed Company) and Home Gardener, our own line. We have more seeds coming in.”

Over at the burgeoning Leaf and Petal greenhouse, owner Ellen Coates said the extended cool weather was hampering her display progress.

“We’re having March weather in May, and I can’t put any of these plants outside yet,” said Coates last week, waving at a huge raft of greenery. “It’s still too cold at night. We are still getting the minuses.”

But it isn’t just about the edible items. Flower plantings are also up, and the greenhouses at Leaf and Petal were awash in colour and shapes.

“Vista petunias are going out by the trayful,” said greenhouse employee Iris Krahn. “And tomatoes. But we have lots more coming up all the time, and are trying to meet the demand. We shouldn’t run out of tomatoes.”

The Leaf and Petal greenhouse at Fletcher and Norquay opened on Sunday, May 3, operating under current provincial regulations, which require physical distancing and the use of hand sanitizer. 

Only 15 shoppers can browse at a time (with just two shoppers per household), and children are not allowed in at this time, they said. Washrooms are currently closed to the public, they added.

Orders can also be made by phone, for those who wish to keep out of the hothouse, by calling 204-523-4890, and pickup for these orders takes place the following day.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, hundreds of sown vegetable trays and packs were quietly germinating, in readiness for the coming planting days, said Coates. 

And those warmer days cannot come too soon, in this strange year of COVID-19 seclusion and separation. The drive to grow what we can – and enjoy it while we do – is opening up a brave new world of gardeners.

A FOREST OF BLOOMS – Ellen Coates, owner of The Leaf and Petal, has been awash in blooms and foliage, since the spring season opened at the greenhouse. Staff are busy seeding up extra vegetable packs, and sales of tomato and petunia plants were the hot items being whisked off the staging last week.

SEED SHORTAGE – Audrey Feader (above) was browsing in Johnson Hardware recently, picking up some ordered seed potatoes and checking out the limited seed selection. Owner Brendin Johnson said he ran short of stock of his Lindenberg seed supply, and has restocked once already, as demand for garden seed has been overwhelming this pandemic year. Many seed companies have run out of some varieties, as gardeners scurry to fill their beds.