Why more Manitobans are turning to vegetable gardening amid the pandemic
A photo of a woman cutting flowers and greens in the yard of her home on April 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WINNIPEG -- Gardening has been blossoming in Manitoba since the COVID-19 pandemic brought normal life to a standstill, and for some green-thumbed Manitobans, it's moved from a hobby to a source of food.
With Manitobans finding themselves with more time on their hands this summer, many have turned to their gardens to pass the time.
Roswitha Nowak, the vice president of the West Kildonan Horticultural Society, said since March, she has seen an increase in those looking to get a start in gardening.
"The rise in gardening is just pretty amazing," she said. "A lot of people are growing more plants that they would never have done before, especially getting into vegetables because they are unsure of what is going to be available."
Ashley Meyer started planting her vegetable garden in May after realizing most of her summer would be spent at home. (Submitted: Ashley Meyer)
The Jensen Nursery & Garden Centre in Winnipeg also saw the increase.
Tammy Richot, co-owner of the nursery, said since March they have seen 10 to 15 per cent more traffic overall.
"It seems to be a lot more people are staying home, they are not planning vacations, and they are spending more time in their yard being off work," Richot said.
"We have a lot of people who have started vegetable gardening for the first time – and that seems to be driven by they want to grow their own food instead of having to worry about going to the grocery store."
PANDEMIC BRINGS REVIVAL OF 'VICTORY GARDENS'
The drive to grow your own food amid the pandemic has also brought a resurgence of the 'victory garden' in Winnipeg.
Victory Gardens became popular in Canada during the First World War when people were encouraged to grow their own food at home.
In the city, the Winnipeg Food Council decided to revive the idea, planting the Meadowood Victory Garden at the St. Vital Centennial Arena.
"The Winnipeg Food Council was noticing at the start of the pandemic, that there was a large increase in the amount of people who were wanting to grow food," said Jeanette Sivilay, coordinator for the Winnipeg Food Council.
READ MORE: Victory Garden sprouts up in St. Vital
Sivilay said the garden has just had the first harvest of its 15 different vegetables and herbs.
"We're kind of in the beginning of the season still, and the response has been really wonderful," she said. "I always find there is a really great vibe around growing food for people, and this is no different."
Sivilay noted, based on the amount of positive feedback, there is a good chance the victory garden may return in the future.
MANITOBANS LOOK FOR A HOME-GROWN SOLUTION TO FOOD SUPPLY
Members of the Winnipeg Food Council are not the only ones rolling with the idea of victory gardens.
Home-grown vegetable gardens have been sprouting up across Manitoba in the wake of the pandemic.
Ashley Meyer (pictured) says a vegetable garden is a great way to introduce veggies and greens into her kids' diet. (Submitted: Ashley Meyer)
Ashley Meyer started planting her vegetable garden in May after realizing most of her summer would be spent at home.
"I thought that this would be a nice way to introduce some more and new veggies into my kids' diet," she said.
"Like most kids, they are not the biggest fans of eating vegetables, but I thought maybe this would be a nice way to kind of get my four-year-old son excited about eating something new and trying new vegetables that come straight out of our garden that he can help pick."
She said while it started as a hobby, gardening has become a therapeutic way to relax.
Uriel Jelin also took up gardening this summer, and while this is not his first vegetable garden ever – it is his first vegetable garden in Canada.
Jelin and his family moved to Canada from Argentina five years ago. As a child, he grew a vegetable garden with his parents and has wanted to grow one on his own since then.
Uriel Jelin (pictured) stands near his vegetable garden that he started growing after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Manitoba. (Submitted: Uriel Jelin)
"There is this very, very strong need of growing something – to see some green," he said. "There is a feeling for eating the vegetables you have grown yourself – you are really feeding your family, and there is this feeling of accomplishment."
WINNIPEG'S GARDENING COMMUNITY SUPPORTING NEW GARDNERS
Nowak said Winnipeg has a strong gardening community that is excited to see new gardeners sprouting up.
She said there are lots of horticultural groups on Facebook that are happy to provide advice and gardening tips to new gardeners.
"Quite often gardeners – if someone is starting out – will divide and help out and say 'what can I do' – I mean they are a wonderful resource," she said.