More Canadians have tried their hand at gardening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, research finds

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – First it was Tiger King. The obsession with baking sourdough followed, and then it was gardening.

More of us have been working our greenthumbs during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research.

“Almost one Canadian in five started a garden this year, which is incredible,” Sylvain Charlesbois, a professor with the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, explains.

“We believe that the gardening rate in Canada was a little over 30 per cent before the pandemic, but we’ve clearly seen a COVID bump.”

The research suggests more than half of respondents — 51 per cent — are growing at least one type of fruit or vegetable in a garden, with 17.4 per cent having tried to do so from home this year.

Even those of us who don’t have big yards got in on the trend, the research has found, with people taking advantage of whatever space they have to try and grow their own food.

“Even with no backyards, they still decided to grow produce on balconies and at community gardens, so it’s been really interesting to watch,” Charlebois tells NEWS 1130.

The reasons people started gardening ranged from worries about food shortages to increased food prices.

“People were looking at saving money. They were looking at food safety as an issue, and they also looked as taste, as well. So those are the top three drivers,” Charlebois notes, adding a number of gardeners believe their own crop would be safer than buying produce at the store.

“The economics of gardening certainly are quite important. People feel they wanted to save.”

What are people growing?

So what are home gardeners planting? The research finds people are growing a range of produce, but tomatoes are apparently top of the list.

Lettuce, onions, and carrots are also among the veggies Canadians have been trying their hand at, Charlebois adds.

And if your tomato plants didn’t result in much bounty, Charlebois says you’re probably not alone. They’re not easy.

“For tomatoes, you need equipment, you need to make sure the plant is taken care of. And there’s a bit of an art to grow tomatoes — you have to cut and trim the plant in July and August to allow the plant to put all its energy on growing tomatoes,” he explains, if your tomatoes may have seemed a little small this time around.

But, there’s always next year.

As for geography, the Dalhousie research has found British Columbians and people in the Prairies tend to be growing more food than elsewhere, Charlebois says.

“I think the COVID bump was less obvious or less significant out west because people were already gardening — I think it’s part of the culture, the space. Of course, in B.C., the connection between agriculture and people is very real, very measurable, so a lot of people were gardening already. They may have actually extended their capacity as a result of COVID, but a lot of people are expert gardeners already in B.C.,” he says.

Charlebois says there are plans to survey Canadians on their gardening habits again next year, to see if they’ve kept up with their new found hobby.

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