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Home gardening blooms around the world

Back to the roots: Jaime Calder with daughter Billie in their vegetable garden at Texas, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Back to the roots: Jaime Calder with daughter Billie in their vegetable garden at Texas, amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

Soothing, family friendly hobby that also eases concerns over food security

Jaime Calder all but gave up on gardening after moving from the fertile soils of Illinois to dusty Texas, but the novel coronavirus has changed her mind.

The magazine editor and her family of five planted collard greens, chard, onions, blackberries, watermelons and peppers expanding their garden while buckling down at home during the pandemic.

People around the world are turning to gardening as a soothing, family friendly hobby that also eases concerns over food security as lockdowns slow the harvesting and distribution of some crops. Fruit and vegetable seed sales are jumping worldwide.

Its supplementary gardening, said Ms. Calder. “There’s no way this would sustain a family of five. But we’re amping it up, so we can try and avoid the store a little more in the coming months.”

Russians are isolating in out-of-town cottages with plots, a traditional source of vegetables during tough times since the Soviet era and rooftop farms are planned in Singapore which relies heavily on food imports.

Furloughed workers and people working from home are also looking for activities to occupy their free time, after the cancellations of major sporting events and the closure of restaurants, bars and theatres. Parents too are turning to gardening as an outdoor activity to do with children stuck at home after schools shut.

“Planting a few potatoes can be quite a revelation to a child,” said Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society, which has seen a five-fold rise in queries for advice on its website during the lockdown. Gardeners without yards are even planting potatoes in trash bags, he said.

Gardening could trim retail demand for produce but trips to the grocery store will still be necessary. Bert Hambleton, retail consultant for Hambleton Resources, said supermarkets will continue to see an overall increase in produce demand as would-be restaurant-goers eat at home instead of dining out.

The U.S. seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co sold more seed than any time in its 144-year history in March as the contagious respiratory virus spread, Chairman George Ball said.

When they cannot find seeds in stores, would-be gardeners in Britain are seeking advice on how to extract them from tomatoes and squash purchased in supermarkets, he said.

In Russia, demand for seeds rose by 20%-30% year-on-year in March, according to online retailer Ozon.

Seed demand typically goes up in tough economic times, said Tom Johns, owner of Territorial Seed Company in Cottage Grove, Oregon. The company temporarily stopped taking orders over the phone due to a surge in demand and reassigned some phone workers to physically fill online orders, he said.

“It doesn’t take long for people to become very concerned about the food supply — either the cost or getting it,” Mr. Johns said.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Fairfield, Maine, saw a 270% jump in orders the week of March 16, after U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the virus.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 7:58:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/home-gardening-blooms-around-the-world/article31391096.ece

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