Prepping for the rush, adjusting to COVID-19

March 31, 2020

By Richard Burke

On the one hand, it’s not difficult to visualize a beehive of activity in a nursery nurturing seedlings that have sprouted and are clamouring for the next step. On the other, it’s hard to imagine doing this with a staff cut to a fifth of normal.

“Our plants are crying to be transplanted,” says Gail Smith, one of the Green Haven Garden Centre owners. “I’m even helping out myself – it’s good to get back to your roots in this business” because only six people are on staff now focussing on the plants started in the greenhouse. There are usually 30 and those who can’t be there because of the COVID-19 restrictions are calling every day to see if they can come in yet and help.

The provincial government has said garden centres are among businesses that need to stay closed. But, a coincidental benefit is that it allows the limited staff to stay focussed on the needs of the young plants.

However, Green Haven will resume it’s curbside pickup program Wednesday, April 1. “The government is OK with that,” says Gail.

Gardeners anxious to get supplies that are already on the centre’s shelves can call (403)327-6172 or email and place an order. They’ll need a credit card ready. Staff will load a cart which will be taken at a time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. set between the customer and the centre. A parking lot number will also be assigned and that’s where the cart will be taken and contents loaded onto the customer’s vehicle.

Since the centre closed March 23, a lot of people have been phoning about getting supplies such as garden seed, soil, tools, gloves, birdseed – whatever has been stocked. “It’s been crazy.”

Meanwhile, seedling nurturing in the greenhouse continues.

“We planted more vegetables like tomatoes and peppers this year, because we think that’s what people are going to want,” says Gail.

And, even though they know visiting the garden centre “lifts people’s spirits,” Gail says they remain optimistic that the centre at some point in the spring will be open, even if it’s with limited numbers.

“We know people will want plants and we want to be there for them.”

Customer Appreciation Day, also scheduled for April 1, has been postponed “but hopefully we can have it later in the month.”

Tree, shrubs and perennials are on hold because suppliers have been forced to close as well. Since shipping normally starts in about a month, there’s hope that part of the business can resume to coincide with planting season later in May.

Gail and sister Karen Barby have been a part of the business since their parents started it as a tree farm more than 40 years ago.


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