GARDEN ROUTE DISTRCT NEWS - Nursery owners on the Garden Route have had an interesting time.
They were banned from operating under lockdown Level 5 which began at midnight on Thursday, 26 March.
Then, on 1 May, with the start of Level 4, they could reopen.
However, there was confusion about the regulations and an owner of two nurseries - one in Oudtshoorn and one on the R102 road outside Hartenbos - said authorities closed his nurseries because they had misinterpreted the rules.
Gardening nurseries with ornamental plants and vegetables are allowed to operate under lockdown Level 4. They fall under Agriculture.
However, nurseries which fall under the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, such as ones with forest tree saplings and so forth, may not operate.
Charlie Swanepoel, owner of the two Swans garden nurseries in Oudtshoorn and Hartenbos, was shocked at his nurseries being closed because authorities did not understand the distinction in the rules.
"They came to us on Friday, 15 May, and shut us down. Then they re-opened us on the Saturday. We had to explain that we sell ornamental plants and fall under Agriculture and are nothing to do with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries."
Swanepoel said the SA Nursery Association also had to intervene. Ornamental plant nurseries obtain their permits through AgriSA and the Minister of Agriculture.
Swanepoel said: "People are crazy about their gardens and came to the nurseries seeking fresh air. A nursery is not only a place of business, it is a place to admire God's handiwork. We have an amazing variety of plants."
Bertus Gunnink, owner of the Outeniqua Palms nursery on the airport road outside George, said: "People have spending power and they want to get out into a pristine environment. We're really busy and are grateful for this. My customers are buying fruit trees and vegetable seedlings such as tomatoes and lettuces. We're busier than before the lockdown."
'Essentials and edibles'
Liz Bunnett of Penhill Nursery in Knysna said: "We obtained permission to open a few days before 1 May to sell essentials and edibles. Then of course we were allowed to sell all plants from 1 May.
"People are planting vegetables and herbs and doing composting and feeding. They're keen on colourful flowers and are buying annuals.
"Parents who are homeschooling are buying plants and doing projects with their children in the garden, which is good. It is a pity the children cannot come to the nurseries, but this is understandable during the lockdown."
Niel Cawood, the owner of Ornamental Garden Nursery in Tergniet, outside Mossel Bay, said: "Now, with reopening at Level 4, more and more people are starting vegetable gardens and growing herbs for home use.
"They are stocking up on cauliflower, cabbages and broccoli seedlings and onions, spinach and carrot seedlings. I think people have become worried about food security and also, gardening is keeping people busy. People are a bit bored at home, so they are buying plants, compost and fertilisers. In terms of flowers, gardeners are buying the usual flowers at this time of year - violas, violets and pansies. Our target market is retired people. The normal eight to five guy is not spending money on plants."
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