As London, Ont., continues to sizzle with summer-like temperatures, garden centres in and around the city are gearing up for the season.
“It’s a great time to promote family and community because gardening is something that you can do with children, parents, or grandparents of all ages,” says Pauline Intven-Casier, vice president and garden centre manager at Canadale Nurseries Ltd., in St. Thomas, Ont.
“There’s also a lot of health benefits as well,” says Will Heeman of Heeman’s Garden Centre in London, Ont.
While gardening can help strengthen mobility, flexibility, and can reduce blood pressure all with a little extra hit of vitamin D, gardening can promote various mental health benefits as well.
“One of the things that I think really resonates with a lot of people now is that there is something that happens when you garden that actually produces a scientifically proven antidepressant,” Heeman says.
According to a study done by the University of Bristol in Bristol, England, in 2007, a treatment of mice with a “friendly” bacteria, mycobacterium, normally found in soil, proved to alter their behaviour in a way similar to that produced by antidepressant drugs.
Researchers discovered that this effect is caused by the bacteria activating neurons in the brain to release serotonin all through inhalation.
Although tested on mice, the bacteria is said to have the same effect on humans when inhaled.
Chris Lowry, lead author on the published paper from the university, said in a media statement that “these studies help us to understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health.”
“They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt,” Lowry added.
As the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the province in March 2020, garden centres noticed a large uptake in demand for products as available time at home resulted in more people wanting to “play in the dirt.”
“I think a big part of it was a lot of people getting bored at home,” says Maili Walker, marketing assistant at Parkway Gardening Centre in London, Ont. “But what we’re seeing now is our supply go down because of the increase in food prices. For example, we’ve seen a huge demand for tomatoes, squash and even cucumbers.”
A recent study from Dalhousie University unveiled that 52 per cent of Canadians were growing their own food at home in 2022.
These results come as the cost of food, as well as living expenses, reach an all-time high across the country.
According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2022, the overall food price for the coming year is expected to increase between five and seven per cent — the greatest estimated increase since reporting began in 2010.
But aside from the costing factor, Walker adds that “some individuals just want to get control of what’s going into their bodies.”
“For some, it’s just wanting safer consumption,” Walker says.
“Some people don’t want to buy vegetables from different countries and want to support local in growing their own,” adds Intven-Casier. “But that experience is also becoming an educational tool for kids. It’s become a fun, family-oriented activity and we’ve seen a huge growth in people wanting to grow their own vegetables, herbs, even fruit among other things.”
As business continues to blossom for local garden centres this time of year, for those looking to get started, below is a compiled list of tips and tricks from local nurseries:
- Plan ahead, make sure to consider factors such as available size, sun and shade ratio, which plant species will work best in the provided space, etc.
- Consider mulching, which can help conserve water “tremendously.”
- Potting for long-term flowerpots, start with good quality potting soil.
- Maintain proper weed management because “nothing is more frustrating than starting a garden and, in a month or so, seeing it full of weeds,” says Heeman.
- Garden centres are a great source of information.
“When you’re thinking about what colours would also look good in your space, my mother always said that every flower goes together,” Intven-Casier says.
She adds that it’s all about focusing on “what you like.”