Seed shortages return as pandemic gardeners get their hands dirty

·2 min read
Janet Melrose, a Calgary gardener and gardening author, says you can easily turn old milk jugs into germination stations for freshly sown seeds, even while the weather is cold. (Submitted by Janet Melrose - image credit)
Janet Melrose, a Calgary gardener and gardening author, says you can easily turn old milk jugs into germination stations for freshly sown seeds, even while the weather is cold. (Submitted by Janet Melrose - image credit)

The first day of spring has sprung and Calgarians are already planning their gardens — so much so that certain seeds are hard to find on Calgary shelves.

"It's just that there's so many more people wanting to be gardeners," said Janet Melrose, who has co-authored a series of books on gardening in the prairies.

"People have been ordering their seeds online and visiting garden centres since about January."

Melrose said you can still find seeds in the city but certain varieties might be harder to track down.

  • WATCH | See what other gardeners and experts have to say about supplies in the video above

"If you're looking for drunken woman lettuce, you might not find it, but you might be able to find red rails [lettuce]," she said on The Homestretch.

Interest in gardening surged this time last year and some garden centre owners saw seed sales triple.

Melrose thinks it's because people have been able to appreciate nature in a new way, because of the pandemic.

"I think it's fabulous…. People have really discovered nature," she said.

"There's so many stories about people finding healing and mental relief and everything about getting into the soil and gardening and seeing stuff grow."

Planning your planting

If you haven't started purchasing seeds and putting them in soil, Melrose said you shouldn't worry.

"Before you start jumping in and just buying seeds willy-nilly,… make a plan ahead of time because you want to make sure that you are buying enough for your needs this year."

In her opinion, it's a tad early for outdoor seeds, but you can start "winter sowing."

She uses "old milk jugs to make little passive greenhouses."

Janet Melrose, a Calgary gardener and gardening author, says you can easily turn old milk jugs into germination stations for freshly sown seeds, even while the weather is cold.
Janet Melrose, a Calgary gardener and gardening author, says you can easily turn old milk jugs into germination stations for freshly sown seeds, even while the weather is cold.(Submitted by Janet Melrose)

Her method is to sow the seeds into soil in a cut-open milk jug, tape it back up, and then leave them outside until it is time for the seeds to germinate.

But she said sowing seeds indoors with grow lights works too.

If you're itching to plant early, sow spinach, arugula and lettuces, which do well in the cool soil, said Melrose.

"Plant them early. As early as we can make this workable is really what we want to do."

She said it's not too early for tomatoes either, planted in a pot indoors with potting soil.