One sign of spring is the emergence of garden centres in the big national chain stores.

But off the beaten track and away from the shopping centres, independent locally-owned greenhouses have been preparing thousands and thousands of flowering plants and vegetable plants for the new season.

Most greenhouses are open now. Kim Meinzinger of Moe’s Gardens and Greenhouse in the M.D. of Bonnyville says gardeners are busting to get their hands into the soil.

“People are really antsy. They’re all keen,” Meinzinger said. But she advises patience.

“This weather’s been deceptive. Everybody’s kind of jumping the gun I think,” she said. 

Shelley Phillips, who owns Gardener’s Junction greenhouse near Cold Lake, is seeing the same thing. She says it’s a good time to get some things started, either at home or in your local greenhouse, but it’s too early to put most plants into the ground.

Phillips watches the moon phases to time the beginning of the growing season. A full moon or a new moon on a clear night can be accompanied by frost, she says, so it’s best to plant a bit later.

“Normally I would tell people not to leave their plants outdoors until after the full moon or the new moon,” she said. “This year it’s very different because the new moon is the 10th of June. And if they were to be putting anything out prior to that, I would suggest watching the overnight temperatures and either put their plant material into a shed or into the house, or cover it.”

Many people turned to gardening last year as an enjoyable, safe outdoor activity. These people are coming back to the greenhouses this year with renewed enthusiasm.

“We’ve noticed there’s more traffic than normal, and earlier, this season,” Meinzinger said. “They’re just loving to get out. People are just coming up with smiles on their faces.”

Phillips believes while people are learning the joys of gardening as a hobby, it used to be a matter of lifestyle.

“People are more, for lack of a better word, housebound. They’re more interested in finding a new hobby. They’re more interested in beautification of their own yard space because they’re going to be spending more time in their yard,” she said.

“The other thing is, because of Covid, it’s a little bit more difficult to get produce in and people are wanting to try and get back to being more self-sufficient and understanding their food source.”

For many town dwellers, it’s a throwback to a way of life that was typical for most households not all that long ago.

“You just did it. It was a requirement, it was part of everyday living,” Phillips said. “And we’ve gotten away from the everyday need and desire to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining.”

Of course, it’s not just gardening. Meinzinger says people “are getting back to hobbies that they’ve always wanted to do, renovating their houses and lots of outside landscaping, doing repairs, crafts, and those types of things.”

New gardeners and more experienced growers find the advice from a greenhouse operator as valuable as the plants themselves.There’s no better place to learn about a plant than from the person who has been raising them from seeds for years.

Meinzinger and her husband Chuck Moe have been operating their greenhouse for 30 years, and Shelley and Dave Phillips have been in business for 23 years. Shelley is also qualified as a journeyman landscaper, having completed a four-year training and apprenticeship program.

Beyond advice, many greenhouses can help you create custom containers to suit your garden, they can care for your purchase until planting time, and even offer workshops. 

Spring is a process, not an event—we have to be patient a bit longer. But for people with the gardening bug, it’s hard to wait.

“People want to see some life,” Meinzinger said. “They want to get out of their houses.”

Sprouts are sprouting and blossoms blooming at greenhouses across the Lakeland. JEFF GAYE