Community gardens, greenhouses open for business in Saskatchewan

Benefits of gardening during a global pandemic
WATCH: The coronavirus pandemic has many people under lockdown and practising physical distancing to slow the spread of the virus. During this uncertain time, experts suggest gardening to ease anxious thoughts about the future.

The May long weekend is the unofficial start to the gardening season in Saskatchewan.

Summer-like conditions are in the forecast for southern and central regions of the province — perfect for people looking to plant their gardens.

Registered psychologist Christine Korol says it is a mood-boosting activity, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Gardening can help you get through coronavirus isolation — here’s how to start

“Gardening is a great physical activity that we can safely do outside, so it checks a lot of boxes in terms of an activity that will improve your mood,” Korol told Global News.

“It also gives you a sense of accomplishment, which is connected to improving your mood.”

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Many people turn to community gardens to grow their own produce. Over 300 gardeners are part of Grow Regina, and in Saskatoon, CHEP helps co-ordinate 65 community gardens.

They received the green light to start operations in Phase 1 of the province’s reopening plan.

“We’re just very happy that we are able to be open this year and getting people outside and doing healthy activities,” said Chelsea Brown with Grow Regina.

But, there are specific guidelines that need to be followed besides physical distancing and sanitization.

“We’ve added a few additional things around watering schedules and scheduling time for people to be in the garden,” said Zoe Arnold, the urban agriculture co-ordinator for CHEP in Saskatoon.

“[Gardens] have a group of volunteers called a garden collective and they create that schedule and plan themselves. A garden with 10 or 15 plots versus one with 80 plots would have a very different way of needing to schedule, which is why they did that safety plan requirement.”

Brown said they aren’t considering putting up schedules at this time in Regina, but that could change.

“We have asked people that if people are encroaching on their space just to politely remind them of the physical distancing requirements and the [Grow Regina] board is going to monitor it as well,” Brown said.
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“If we do notice that it’s becoming a problem, schedules might need to be put in place.”

READ MORE: COMMENTARY — How to plan for pests while gardening during the pandemic

Arnold and Brown said gardeners have to bring their own tools as those that would normally be made available by each organization will remain locked up.

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“We also had to put away benches or any of those kind of shared spaces that multiple people might be touching so those are just off-limits this year,” Arnold said.

Brown said all of Regina’s community gardens are closed to the public and only accessible to members this year.

Gardeners can only be accompanied by immediate family members and limited to no more than four people, she added.

READ MORE: Gardening trends 2020 — Landscaping for disasters and unusual succulents

They also cautioned people who are not feeling well to stay away from the gardens.

“If you’re feeling sick, if you’ve travelled, if you’ve been in close contact to somebody, don’t come out into the public,” Brown said.

If you’re looking for a community garden plot in Regina, you’re out of luck for this season. Grow Regina says all plots are spoken for in 2020.

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However, Arnold said some plots are still available among the 65 community gardens in Saskatoon.

Greenhouses and garden centres

Gardeners and those with green thumbs can head out to their favourite greenhouse or garden centres to pick up their plants.

Those are already open as an allowable business.

However, physical distancing rules must be followed, one-way aisles must be implemented and limits placed on the maximum number of people allowed inside the store.

Jill Vanduyvendyk, the owner of Dutch Growers, said they have put additional measures in place.

“We require you to sanitize your hands when you come in and we have sanitization stations every 50 feet in the greenhouses,” Vanduyvendyk said.

“We also are requiring people to wear a face covering. We are not saying a mask, but a face-covering — something that covers your nose and mouth that can stay on your face without you holding it with your hands.”

Vanduyvendyk also said signage is up encouraging people not to touch plants unless they are going to buy it.

Gardening tips as spring hits Saskatoon
Gardening tips as spring hits Saskatoon

She also warned of a possible upcoming plant shortage.

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“Because of COVID, some of the growers weren’t wanting to take the risk of planting too many crops. So we’re finding that some of the supply is starting to dwindle out a bit,” Vanduyvendyk said.

“It’s best to make sure that [people] grab things now.”

— With files from Global News’ Meghan Collie