Gardening takes off in capital region amid virus worries

Home gardening is exploding throughout the capital region as residents plant modern versions of victory gardens during an uncertain time.

Vegetable seeds and seedlings, berries, gardening accessories and day-old chicks are all being purchased as people aim to put their food supply in their own hands.

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“It just makes us feel a lot less anxious because it is something we can do,” said Elise Cote of Saanich, who decided to “drastically” expand her garden’s footprint because of worries about potential shortages of imported food.

As with many others, Cote, a federal employee, is working from home, which allows her to work more flexible hours and have time for the garden, too.

Raised on a farm on Quadra Island, Cote has always loved to garden and has been growing berries and veggies on her Saanich property, as well as getting eggs from three hens.

Cote, partner Victor Velazquez and children Milo, five, and Lucia, 19 months, all pitch in. The youngsters have their own child-size shovels and love to work in the yard, their mother said.

Growing food saves money, said Cote, who estimates that her home-grown peas and strawberries — a hit with the children in 2019 — would have cost $40 per week to buy.

She anticipates that this year’s larger harvest will provide the family with the bulk of their vegetables this season, with enough for canning and freezing, too.

She just harvested some broccoli that was planted in the fall. Her kale is starting to take off, and asparagus is poking out of the ground.

This spring, she has already planted some seeds and filled space next to her south-facing bay window indoors with tiny veggie plants that will eventually go outdoors.

A 1.2-metre-square area will hold raised beds shared by Cote’s family and their tenants, but other areas on the residential property are also being put into service.

Squash will be grown in the boulevard (last year, Cote harvested 14 pumpkins), while blueberry bushes and raspberry canes have replaced some of the lawn. Strawberries are going in a bed and barrels.

Cote estimates they will get 10 to 15 pounds of strawberries this year.

The harvest will also feature peas, mustard greens, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers and more. Zucchini is grated into two-cup portions and frozen to use in muffins in the future.

Cote is by no means alone in her gardening efforts. Travis Young, manager of Buckerfield’s in Langford, noticed extra-strong sales last month.

Spring is always busy, but this year, packages of seeds have been selling out. He is expecting a new “giant order” any day.

Young vegetable plants “have been just flying off the shelves,” Young said.

Home gardeners grow in everything from pots on patios to plots in the ground.

Interest in gardening has also been prompted by school closing, he said, since it’s a great way for families to work together on a group activity at home.

Many are buying day-old chicks at $6.99 each to raise hens for eggs, he said. Orders are being taken because they sell out quickly.

And when people buy chicks, they also purchase accessories such as feeders, feed and watering devices.

Young expects that as more people take up gardening, they will decide to stick with it in the future after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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