Gardening this year? What to expect as you shop seeds and soil

·3 min read
Greenthumbs are out shopping as gardening season begins in Calgary.  (Helen Pike/CBC - image credit)
Greenthumbs are out shopping as gardening season begins in Calgary. (Helen Pike/CBC - image credit)

Now is the time to shop if you're planning a garden. And in greenhouses, while many prices have stayed the same, some garden goods are going for more this year.

Calgary's garden centres are stocked and ready for shoppers. But after years of the pandemic setting new precedents, one store owner has some advice.

"I tell people if you see something and you have to have it, buy it now because we just don't know what the demand is going to be this year," said Plantation Garden Centre owner Colin Atter. "We've had two years that have been absolutely insane."

This week, Atter's phone is ringing off the hook because of the sharp shift in Calgary's weather. For most plants, it's way too early to put things outside.

Probability of dipping below zero still at or close to 100%

In terms of demand, Atter thinks shoppers are back to normal. But when it comes to prices, some things have changed.

Plant material prices haven't gone up too much. But on items like plastic planters, metal trellises and other physical items, Atter said to expect to pay more — in some cases up to 30 per cent more.

"It's 12 months to get anything from overseas. China mostly, I think. So that's really thrown us for a loop," Atter said. "Pottery, I think, is probably the biggest jump in prices. I'm happy to have it because you can't get it. We won't be able to get it next year with all the factories closed in China right now."

As much as he can, Atter is looking for local sources to keep costs to the consumer down.

Horticulturalist Kath Smyth said Alberta has had a greenhouse boom.

"I've watched the Alberta greenhouses and flower growing industry go from being shrunk to huge again," Smyth said.

There may be more interest in gardening this year because of the cost of produce. Atter said planting from seed is the most economical option, but beating grocery store prices means planting a huge volume of veggies.

It's best to tend to a garden to know where your food comes from, how it was grown and to reap the mental health benefits, he added.

Helen Pike/CBC
Helen Pike/CBC

"For me, I grow like four tomato plants, and I don't care what they cost because there's nothing better than eating them off the vine. I can't stand, you know, grocery store tomatoes."

Smyth has seen planting from seed really come back into style. This means companies are stocking all sorts of interesting seed packets.

She's already planted her onions and sweet peas. Soon, she'll get her carrots in the ground, too. One of the main challenges this year starting from seed isn't supply, Smyth said. It's finding those plastic starter trays.

"I'm growing my squash and red solo cups," she said. "But, you know, these are things that one does as we become more inventive."

Smyth said that with all the new gardeners out there, she's seeing people become more creative and instinctive with their green thumbs. The pandemic taught people to better plan ahead and make do.

Helen Pike/CBC
Helen Pike/CBC

Next season, things might look different if you're starting from seed.

Smyth said some seed production areas in Manitoba are under floodwater. In the United States, some seed companies have had to contend with drought conditions, she said.

With fertilizer costs on the rise because of the war in Ukraine, Smyth said gardeners should concentrate on building up some good compost.

"Fertilizers have a certain base to them and certain mineral bases," Smyth said. "And believe it or not, some of the minerals come out of Europe and particularly Poland, Hungary, and Ukraine."

She said by composting, you pull important minerals and materials out of fruit and vegetable scraps that can go a long way to fuel your garden.

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