Stay-at-home summer yards designed for play, gardening, entertaining

Stay-at-home summer yards designed for play, gardening, entertaining

Landscapers in high demand this year as many plan to stay close to home

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Albertans aren’t hedging their bets during the pandemic.

Simply put, they want better outdoor spaces. Backyards that may have once taken a backseat when it came to home improvements are now front and centre.

That means landscapers are busier than ever. In demand are vegetable gardens, fruit producing trees, outdoor kitchens, outdoor pizza ovens, putting greens, and on higher-end jobs: multi-use sports courts for basketball, volleyball or tennis.

“It is nearly impossible to find a landscaper this year or it seems (to be) — people who are really good are really in demand and are already booked for all of 2021,” said Joel Beatson, CEO of Landscape Alberta, a non-profit organization supporting and representing the landscape horticulture industry in the province. “A lot of it is just that everyone is sticking close to home, kind of nesting if you will, and wanting to create these outdoor living spaces whether that’s just a minor renovation or whether they’re investing big, big dollars.”


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The boom dates back to last year when Alberta came out of the first COVID-19 lockdown, said Beatson, noting the thing the industry most often competes against is other luxury items such as travel.

“When there’s no travel, we tend to see a boom in people spending on their homes,” said Beatson. “The last time I can really remember that, except for a couple of cases of it, was 2001. After 9/11 there was a good-sized landscape boom as people stopped travelling and spent money on their outdoor spaces.”

Supplies Tight

Karl Jesske is a busy man. A very busy man.

The day before an interview with this St. Albert-based landscaper, his phone message said they were booking landscaping jobs for August and September. The next day that message was outdated. They’re now looking at 2022.

Jesske, the owner of Modern Earth Landscaping, estimates he’s received 30 per cent to 40 per cent more inquiries than he can handle, and he and his crew are already working six days a week.

He’s not alone in being busy. He said a colleague who does decorative concrete curbing — permanent edging that is an add-on for a front or backyard — gets 30 to 40 calls a day.

With a COVID-19 reality that means people are likely going to be spending time at home for the foreseeable future, especially with a fair number of countries closed to outside travel, Jesske is not surprised to see the increased demand and interest in landscaping projects.

Working on a combination of new build yards and renovations to existing outdoor spaces, Jesske said getting supplies is becoming more difficult.


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“It’s getting harder and harder to get stuff; it’s everything,” said Jesske, “The U.S. is buying up a lot of Canadian stock, which is making it difficult to secure anything … they’re buying in huge volumes and they’re also paying in U.S. dollars so it’s hard for the nurseries or the wholesalers to say no to that because they’re getting 30 per cent more with the exchange rate.”

Lawn and Order

The plan was to build a resort-like space in their backyard. But things didn’t go as planned for Derek MacMillan.

In his St. Albert home for 10 years, it looks like this year will be the first where he’ll have the backyard he envisioned. Previous attempts failed for various reasons.

“Hopefully, finally, we’re almost done,” said MacMillan who recently hired Modern Earth to bring the dream to life.

“It’s a pretty cool project, it’s extremely custom,” said Jesske, who notes it’s about 75 per cent complete.

The back and side yard of MacMillan’s home is being transformed to include a large deck that becomes a three-season room as it is screened in, and there will be a separate seating area with a fire pit adjacent to a modular shipping container pool with its window insert.

The side yard will be done in artificial turf in order to keep outdoor maintenance to a minimum.

While MacMillan would have liked this to seen this done years earlier, ironically, it was the pandemic that pushed it forward.

“The pandemic would have helped spur it for the simple fact that we had no yard for 10 years and now we’re at home every day,” said MacMillan, adding they modified their original design by adding the pool. “So the pandemic was the reason why we got ourselves in gear.”

By the time it’s completed MacMillan, who calls the project a showpiece, is hopeful COVID restrictions will be lifted so friends and neighbours can enjoy it, too.

Weather Delay OK

“Right across Alberta we had a pretty late spring last year,” said Joel Beatson, CEO of Landscape Alberta. “That was a good thing. We were never so happy to see April 20 and snow still on the ground.” That allowed the association the opportunity to properly prep and educate its members on how to deal with COVID-19.


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