Besides being healthy and tasty, gardening is good exercise and provides mental stimulation. Pulling weeds and digging make you sweat a little and burn calories, but it’s worth the effort to get your hands dirty.
Start small, improving soil and managing weeds as your garden grows. If you’re using raised beds, consider automatic irrigation systems to save time and water.
The Greenhouse Neepawa is bursting with more vegetables than ever before to meet a rising demand from both seasoned and beginner gardeners, including those looking to cut down on their grocery bills by growing their own food.
Many Canadians have gone from belt-tightening on spending to drawing on existing savings to make ends meet, according to the latest data from the Angus Reid Institute, a non-profit organization that conducts independent research across the country. One in three, or 34 per cent, of Canadians say they’re either in “bad” or “terrible” shape financially, and despite a one-time grocery rebate from the federal government, many still struggle to afford nutritious food at the grocery store.
Enter the vegetable garden. Whether in a shared community allotment, a windowsill garden, patio pots or large plots in a yard, many people across the province — some for the first time — are trying their hand at vegetable gardening.
“I’ve brought in more varieties and a larger number than we usually do,” said Sheri Grant, owner of the Greenhouse Neepawa. “I have well over 5,000 tomatoes. I have brought in more lettuce than I ever have, I’ve brought in more peppers.”
She’s also introduced what is called “kitchen minis” — plants that grow small, multi-coloured peppers. They’re marked at a dollar a plant, and are well worth it, Grant said.
“Those little minis should each grow into 30 to 40 peppers. That is a lot of vitamin A and a lot of vitamin C. It’s my hope that I sell out of those peppers.”
Grant believes that everyone, regardless of where they live, can and should have some basic vegetables that they’re growing on their own — namely cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and the peppers, which can all be grown in containers.
Grant donates vegetable plants to local daycares, preschools and elementary schools in the area. It’s all a part of her mission to make gardening accessible to everyone in the community.
“It’s certainly affordable. A lot of our prices are 2019 and 2020 prices, because I know the cost of produce is high. This is a way to cut down on costs on a seasonal basis.”
People from all over Westman, even as far north as Dauphin, get their plants and vegetables at Grant’s greenhouse. This doesn’t surprise her, she said, as experienced gardeners will often visit several greenhouses in the area for all their needs.
One of the greenhouses gardeners in Westman may also visit is A and B Dalrymple’s Country Farm and Greenhouse in Minnedosa.
Alan and Barb Dalrymple started the greenhouse 35 years ago after immigrating from northern England. More than just a greenhouse, patrons can visit with sheep and other animals or enjoy a free cup of coffee and a biscuit in the business’ tearoom.
Starting a vegetable garden won’t just help people save money, it’ll increase their well-being, Barb Dalrymple said.
“It’s great to be out working. We find it therapeutic and good exercise.”
People who grow a vegetable garden can also learn how to can and jar their produce so that they have access to it all year long — even during the winter months, Dalrymple said.
“You can also freeze things — there’s so many things you can do. It’s going to save money.”
The feeling of satisfaction a gardener gets from planting their vegetables, nurturing them, harvesting them, preparing them and finally consuming them is another benefit of gardening, Dalrymple said.
She hopes that many people will take up gardening this year, from people who are looking to learn a new hobby to those who are trying to grow their own food and save money. The staff at her greenhouse are always happy to share their experience and expertise, Dalrymple said.
“It’s wonderful to learn these things, and to hopefully encourage them. Even if it’s not a full-blown garden, just to have some planters for cucumbers or tomatoes.”
Parents who encourage their children to take part in gardening also help teach them about where their food comes from, Dalrymple added.
“They love to go out and pick some tomatoes.”
For people who have mobility issues or are unable to bend down or work on their knees, patio planter tomatoes, cucumbers and peas are ideal.
According to gardening blog thegardeningdad.com, the 10 best vegetables to grow in Manitoba are lettuce, which are cold-weather hardy and can be harvested all growing season; kale, which is also cold-hardy and adds a lovely ornamental touch to a garden; cabbage, which thrives in cold weather and works well in raised garden beds; and tomatoes, which are perfect for all types of gardening.
Other great choices are squash, such as zucchini, acorn, butternut and spaghetti, and grow well in the heat and the cold; cucumbers, which provide plenty of vegetables per plant to harvest; peppers, which are low maintenance; and asparagus, which thrives in drought years.
Finally, radishes, which also thrive in drought and cold weather, and eggplants, which love the heat, are both ideal for Manitoba gardens as well. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that on average, frosts in Manitoba are finished by May 21, so all planting should take place after that date, except for when seeds are planted and raised indoors, which can happen as early as March 11.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun