NORTH BAY -- As the province starts to re-open and outdoor restrictions begin to lift, one outdoor activity that has been constantly busy is gardening.

In North Bay, garden centres have been as busy as ever before. More and more people are turning towards gardening to pass the time during the pandemic blues.

"With everybody being stuck at home, they are figuring they might as well spruce the place up," said Casey L'Ami, the co-owner of L'Amis Garden Centre.

The Lakeshore Drive garden centre has been seeing a bunch of new customers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these new customers are first-time gardeners learning the tricks of the trade while they wait for the province to re-open.

"We've been very fortunate to be open during this pandemic," L'Ami said. "A lot of people are vegetable growers or they want to add some colour to their yard. They're asking a lot about that stuff."

Garden centres and nurseries were shut down by the province last year when the pandemic first began. But ever since their re-opening in May of 2020, they have been flourishing.

"It's been absolutely insane," said Burrow's Country Store & Garden Centre owner Bob Hudson.

Over at Hudson's store on Third Avenue West, business has been non-stop.

"We had crowds last year and we thought last year was going to be an anomaly," he said. "This year has gone way past it. We're very pleasantly surprised."

Hudson said many families and young children are getting interested in planting their own vegetable garden. Hudson suggests families do their homework on the type of plants to grow and what they need, as well as finding a suitable location, before purchasing.

"It's something they can do at home and everyone, up to now, still has to pretty well be at home and it's something that gets them out the door," he said. "Tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are the big three."

Both North Bay garden centres are expecting the planting popularity to grow as the summer heatwave approaches.