While we wait for our tomatoes to get big and strong, here are some thoughts I’ve been having about how I’m going to shop differently this summer.
Right now the majority of garden centres in Saskatchewan are implementing new COVID-19 regulations that dictate their ability to open for business while keeping customers and staff safe. For customers shopping in person, these regulations include limits on the number of people allowed into the greenhouse, one-way traffic, a lot of sanitization (including mandatory hand washing or sanitization before entry), and no washroom availability.
While one of the joys of shopping at garden centres for me is just slowly browsing and picking out some pretty or interesting new varieties of things to grow, I likely won’t be doing much, if any, of that this year. I just don’t think I will be able to find much joy in waiting in a long line and then anxiously, hastily choosing my plants with the awareness that there are dozens of people waiting for me to leave so they can come in. In general, I’ve been trying to avoid contact with people in storefront settings as much as possible, and I don’t see why I would make an exception for a greenhouse if I don’t need to.
In addition to the distancing and cleaning measures, many garden centres have developed online shops, or will be accepting orders over the phone/email, which can be picked up curbside or delivered. This is what I plan to mainly do this year. While it will be sad to not be able to pick out “the best” plants from the shelf, and not experience that fresh greenhouse smell, this is the option I feel the safest about, and the least I can do to slow the spread of COVID-19 within the gardening community.
We’re all making sacrifices right now, some big and some small, and this feels like a relatively small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things. Your choice for how you will shop this summer is personal, but I hope it will be risk-informed. I would encourage everyone to help any older or at-risk family members with online/email/phone orders (or put in a shared order within your friend or family group to save on delivery costs) if you have the ability and opportunity to do so.
Through some membership committee work I have been doing with the Saskatoon Horticultural Society, I’ve been in touch with a number of greenhouse owners in town and the majority have mentioned that it is going to be very costly to implement the distancing/cleaning regulations, and those who have created web stores have also incurred increased costs in doing so. I am sure I’m not the only one who goes to the greenhouse with a list and then ends up spending an extra $10-20+ on impulse plants – so if you’re shopping over the phone or online, if you’ve got the means to do so maybe try to add on a few “impulse” purchases (ask them to surprise you, if you’re talking to a staff member!) to help them out, or buy a few extra things you can use next year, like potting soil. And if you can, be mindful of the smaller businesses who may not have been able to afford to create a fancy website and show them some love too.