Green thumbs growing while stuck at home during COVID-19

Ranunculus for sale at Sunset Nursery in Pembroke, Ont. (Dylan Dyson/CTV News Ottawa)

Garden centres and nurseries in the Ottawa Valley are seeing a major upswing when it comes to interest in gardening this spring.

At Sunset Nursery in Pembroke, Greenhouse Manager Alastair Hugli says he’s never seen it this busy in 15 years.

"It’s crazy," says Hugli. "We’ve had people calling in ready to garden and raring to go when there was still snow on the ground."

Hugli says the high demand in plants and garden supplies is a result of a number of different factors.

Some gardeners have started their own vegetable gardens to avoid excess trips to the grocery store, while home sellers are also attempting to pretty up their properties in the midst of the hot real estate market. 

But if your interest falls into neither of those categories, Hugli still says gardening is a great hobby to take up while stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If you’re looking for an excuse to get outside and enjoy the sun and get some physical exercise in, gardening is a great way to do that," says Hugli. "And if you’ve got plants and you need to get out there and maintain them, it kind of forces you to keep yourself a little bit active.”

Patti Kirk and David Buhler say this is the first year they are really embracing their green thumbs.

"There’s less to do, so we’re staying at home," says Kirk, who admits the couple have a lot more time on their hands. "Right now I’m looking for anything that will attract humming birds, because that’s my big goal this summer, to attract humming birds."

The one of hot ticket items at garden centres and nurseries right now are house plants, according to Hugli.

"If you’re someone who’s just got a little apartment; you don’t have a lot of outdoor space at all, and if you’re looking to get into plants, house plants is where you’re going to want to start with."

Hugli recommends coming in earlier than usual for those yearly gardeners. With demand so high, the greenhouse manager suggests those looking to get their usual items to come in a month ahead of time.

And even before mid-April, it’s not too early to start planting.

"At this time of the year, we have a lot of the cool-season plants like pansies and primulas, which have lovely flowers to them," says Hugli. "Those guys can take a little bit of a frost."