Students aren't known for their green thumbs, but gardening has emerged as a surprise escape for young people looking to boost their mental wellbeing in the lockdown.
Housemates Jocelyn Abbott, Meredith Rule and Ben Durkin are ready this spring to smash the stereotype of students neglecting their gardens.
The trio, who moved from Sydney and Melbourne to study in the national capital, are picking up a shovel as the weather turns warm.
Ms Abbott spends a couple of hours every day in their garden.
"Even if it's just studying so I can get the most out of having fresh air and being around the plants, which are starting to flower for the season," she said.
"A few days ago, seeing our nectarine tree blooming made me so excited that I dragged Meredith outside to show her."
Covid has many young people feeling overwhelmed as they balance part-time work and study while facing an uncertain future.
Visits to relatives feel like a distant memory for the students during Canberra's lockdown.
Ms Rule will turn to gardening in the warmer months, as she readies to graduate at the end of the year.
"Jocelyn's been teaching me how to weed, which has been great for a mental health break, to chat, and spend time on the basics of caring for a garden," she said.
But the ACT lockdown has also posed barriers for the budding botanists, as restrictions prevent them from accessing gardening tools. Mr Durkin said Covid restrictions had stopped the trio replacing their broken lawn mower.
"We've been getting creative with our whipper snipper," he said.
Restrictions are in place for Bunnings to operate under click and collect for the general public, after 19,000 people checked into stores across the ACT.
Spring restrictions are also hurting small gardening businesses, with click and collect proving to be a difficult operation. Small business owner Rodney Toll, who's been in the gardening industry for 47 years, has found the lockdown challenging.
He said business owners "can't replace people walking through the door".
Yet his Pialligo nursery, Rodney's PlantsPlus, is still supplying Canberrans with gardening products.
"With spring being the main selling season in our industry, we recently introduced click and collect, which a lot of customers appreciate, as they can find an outlet during lockdown," he said.
"We use an external company to help make deliveries, which is another way for customers to take advantage of gardening during lockdown."
As Floriade has been cancelled for the second year in a row, Canberrans will find solitude in their own gardening, and nursery owners such as Mr Toll are eager for restrictions to be eased.
"While we've adjusted, this lockdown has been a huge loss for the industry and small businesses," he said.
"People being physically at the nursery, experiencing the haven of all the plants, leads to much higher sales compared to click and collect. We understand the need for lockdown, but with 80 per cent of our sale area open environment, it's much safer compared to other retail."
ACT City Services has noticed an increase in green waste bin bookings. Since lockdown began on August 12, more than 400 requests have been made, which is a 63 per cent increase from the same period last year.
This comes as no surprise to Mr Toll.
"Gardening is one of the greatest hobbies for people's mental health. The sense of achievement in helping something grow and thrive really gives someone a purpose and we've noticed a huge rise of young people taking to plants," he said.
"If restrictions are eased for us soon, I don't doubt it will help more Canberrans maintain their wellbeing during these difficult times."
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