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Master Gardeners support renewed interest in gardening due to COVID-19

Karol Dulmanis, preparing a row in the Athol CommUnity Garden

By Ren Duinker, Prince Edward County Master Gardeners
The one positive thing about the pandemic is a renewed interest in gardening. As we all struggle with isolation and social distancing, PEC Master Gardeners are happy to announce: Gardening is not cancelled! There’s never been a better time to get going in the garden.

It’s not too late to plant a few seeds or pick up some seedlings at your local nursery. Spending time in the garden has so many rewards: it keeps us physically active as well as being good for our emotional well-being. Of course, there is the utter delight of harvesting your own fresh vegetables and sharing them with your family and friends. We are all in this together and what better way to help out those around you? If you don’t have a garden, the community gardens are open, for more information see their Facebook pages.

Summer has finally arrived, and we look forward to working in the garden with you. If you’re new to gardening, here’s three quick tips to get you started.

1. If you’re planting vegetables, plant what you and your family like to eat. Consider what’s available at your local farmer’s market and what’s cheap and what’s expensive. For example, if you don’t have a lot of room and you eat a lot of salad, plant different kinds of lettuce and don’t bother with potatoes since they take up a lot of space and are readily available and quite inexpensive from local farmers. Plant lettuce seeds every two weeks so you always have fresh crop to harvest. All the information you need is on the seed pack – how far apart the rows need to be, how long it takes to germinate and water requirements. Most vegetables need full sun.

2. When planning a flower garden, familiarize yourself with invasive species and consider native plants first. Invasive plants like goutweed, periwinkle and English Ivy are taking over natural habitats in Ontario and you should never introduce them into your garden. For more information, check the Ontario Invading Species website


Native plants are easy to grow and by their very nature, like to be in local ecosystems like your garden. There’s so many to choose from for every aspect of your garden, there’s several native plant nurseries who carry all of these plants. This one, Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) loves the sun, is very easy to grow and will develop into a stunning height of 3-5 feet, it blooms in late summer (August to October), just when the rest of the flowers are coming to an end.

Solomans Seal

If you’ve got a shady corner, there’s a very classy plant called Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum). It has graceful arching stems and dangling white flowers and will look after itself year after year. It adds structure and elegance to any shady corner.

Cardinal Flower

One last suggestion, the vibrant Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). This is a stylish plant that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It rises up to a height of 2-4 feet producing scarlet red blooms from July through September. It likes sun but appreciates a bit of afternoon shade. Best not to let her dry out as she needs constant moisture.

3. Our final tip for you is to have fun in your garden and don’t worry about making mistakes, that’s how we learn. Just remember to be aware of invasive species, plant native plants whenever possible and read the labels on plants and seeds. When you position a plant into your garden, make sure you’re giving it the location (sun or shade) it needs and provide it enough water to keep it happy. It will reward you with beauty and lift your spirits for years to come.

Joe Pye Weed

If you have a question about gardening, or you’d like to share a photo of your garden, we’d love to hear from you. Please write to us at:
There’s lots of information on our website, articles to read, download and share and links to many gardening sites. Visit us at:


I’ll leave you with this last photo of one of my favourite native plants, the mighty Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum). Joe can be seen along the roadside through The County with huge clusters of bright pinky flowers buzzing with pollinators from August into September. This plant, with its impressive height of 2-4 feet is an excellent choice as a backdrop to any garden design.

Stay safe, stay home and happy gardening!

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