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Making peace with the pandemic in Newfoundland and Labrador’s backyards

To allow his daughter to enjoy her favourite activity as the pandemic continues into summertime, Shane Stuckless turned his backyard into a little playground, complete with a swing set and fairy garden. Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
To allow his daughter to enjoy her favourite activity as the pandemic continues into summertime, Shane Stuckless turned his backyard into a little playground, complete with a swing set and fairy garden. Andrew Waterman/The Telegram - Andrew Waterman

Fire pits, flowers, vegetables, swings and fairies fill gardens

Shane Stuckless considers himself lucky to be able to work from home, but this also means being confronted with the sight of his backyard more often.

“We’ve kind of neglected the backyard for a while,” he says.

Worrying that his two-year-old daughter was less likely to spend time at the park this summer, he began turning his yard into her personal playground.

“(We) put a little fairy garden there behind my garage. She likes to play with it, take the little gnomes, move them around, sometimes just throw them,” he said.

Using leftover materials from recent home renovations, he built one of her favourite things.

“She loves swings, swing sets and slides,” he said. “Me and my father-in-law ended up building a swing set for her because we didn’t know how long the pandemic would last, so, I just thought it would be too sad for her not to enjoy one of her favourite activities.”

It’s not the first year Stuckless and his wife tried their hand at growing vegetables. However, this year, they’ve cleared a section of the yard for some broccoli, spinach, carrots, potatoes and cabbage.

“I’m trying to figure that part out, if I can keep the slugs and the snails away, that’d be great,” he said. “We had this flagstone, raised bed garden, so I had to move that over. That was an adventure.”

They’ve planted blueberries, blackberries, currants and raspberries. And while walking through the garden, he found some strawberries growing around their maple tree.

He’s not positive, but he suspects during the disarray of home renovations, a tub of strawberries he had brought from the west coast might have mixed with some soil, which they later used in that area.

John Frecker, owner of Holland Nurseries, said he is pleasantly surprised at the amount of business it is doing. The nursery had been planning for this summer since January, and he feared the work would become a mound of compost in the fall because of the pandemic. Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
John Frecker, owner of Holland Nurseries, said he is pleasantly surprised at the amount of business it is doing. The nursery had been planning for this summer since January, and he feared the work would become a mound of compost in the fall because of the pandemic. Andrew Waterman/The Telegram

Soil shortage

Stuckless isn’t the only one who recently discovered a desire to transform their immediate surroundings into a more enjoyable experience.

John Frecker, owner of Holland Nurseries, says he is pleasantly surprised with the dramatic rise in the interest in gardening.

“It’s heartening to see that people are looking at doing things at home,” he says. “It’s been a blessing, but it came after a long drought. The period from March through to May was pretty frightening.”

When weather started to change in late May, Holland Nurseries began to see the result of a pent-up demand for flowers and soil, he says.

And given that they began planning for the summer in January, come April he was worried he would have nothing but a monstrous compost heap on his hands by the end of summer.

“(But) it’s gone well and we’re really happy with the results,” he said.

The demand for soil has gone up dramatically, causing a shortage, he says.

“It’s getting hard to find because the suppliers who make it, if it’s coming from out of province, the shipping channels are really disrupted, so that’s been an issue," he said. "And I think just demand, not just here, but across the country. There’s only so much peat moss you can harvest.”

Anticipating a lot more time spent at home, Colleen Power has turned her backyard into a peaceful and comfortable place to relax. Andrew Waterman/The Telegram
Anticipating a lot more time spent at home, Colleen Power has turned her backyard into a peaceful and comfortable place to relax. Andrew Waterman/The Telegram

Peaceful place

Colleen Power, a local musician who works at the Memorial University campus radio station, CHMR-FM, is all too aware of the shortage of soil, having looked multiple places for it. And as much as she enjoyed gardening before, working from home has meant, this year, she’s been much busier in the garden.

“I ordered a patio set, I stained the fence and the swing,” she said. “I never would have got it done, not a chance in hell.

“I converted (my daughter’s) bunkbed into a loft bed and I made a raised bed out of the wood from the bottom part. So, that’ll tell you now, I had a bit of time on my hands.”

But now that she has most of that done, she can relax and enjoy what she has created, she says.

“I just wanted to make my home and the garden comfortable because we’d be spending all of our time here,” she said. “I was trying to create my own little backyard park.

“I’ve got some nice garden lights. They light up in the nighttime. We can go in the backyard, sit on the swing, it’s very quiet and peaceful. I’m very happy with it.”

andrew.waterman@thetelegram.com

@AndrewLWaterman

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