GUELPH -- If this summer proves to be anything like last year, garden centres and nurseries will be busy spots.

"We sold more tomatoes in early May than we'd ever sold before,” Grobe Nursery owner Perry Grobe said.

Gardening was a pandemic hobby taken up by many first-time green thumbs who were staying home when public health measures ramped up.

"The interest just spiked across the board,” Royal City Nursery owner Tanya Olsen said.

Last year, garden centres and nurseries opened later than usual due to pandemic lockdown restrictions and were only allowed curbside pick-up for a period of time. Despite starting later in the season, gardening still proved to be a popular pastime and shops like Royal City Nursery in Guelph still sold out of multiple items.

"We've stocked up on soils, we've stocked up on pots, on seeds, on Tropicals,” Olsen said.

With many people starting out as gardeners, accessories such as rakes, shears and trellises were also selling out.

Grobe said edible plants were popular items last season.

“There's no question," he said. "Anything that you could eat."

But some of last year's challenges are impacting this season as well.

“The lack of labour being present there, last spring and summer to produce it and of course just on the supply side of soils and things like that being a lot harder to come by,” Grobe said.

As a result, Grobe started planting extra seeds on site this year compared to normal.

Olsen started ordering popular products five months ahead of the normal schedule, including seeds and soil, in hopes of keeping up with this year's anticipated demand.

"We had our bagged soils and peat mosses come in, in December and we've been stocking up ever since, “ Olsen added.

“It's a little early yet to be planting too much,” Grobe said as he showed off preliminary seedlings inside his greenhouse. Adding that their front store and gift shop are open. They plan to welcome customers to their outdoor nursery space mid-April. A date that is weather dependent.

Olsen said she’s happy to see the popularity of gardening grow.

“We have several generations that are now interested in growing, and they're growing as families which is really, really cool."

Both gardening professionals said the pastime can be a great way to bring the family together.

"Your kids are going be a whole lot more interested in eating it if they can grow it themselves," Olsen said.

Due to the pandemic, garden centres and nurseries are planning for continued capacity restrictions during the spring and summer months. Grobe suggests that customers plan their garden plots before visiting store fronts to allow for quicker visits and shorter lines.