This past May, Health Canada revealed that roughly 11 million Canadians may experience high levels of stress, with two million more at risk of traumatic stress as a result of the pandemic. An IPSOS poll found that 66% of women and 51% of men claim their mental health has been negatively affected by COVID-19. Even more concerning is that only 1 in 5 people have asked for support for their issues.

In the Second World War, the Canadian government encouraged citizens in urban areas to plant vegetables to supplement their food rations. The Victory Farms boosted morale for citizens and are known as patriotic war gardening efforts today.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has affected the health and state of mind of many Canadians. For that, we have created The Gardener's Handbook, an app for Canadians to track the growth of their plants as well as their emotions after spending time outdoors.

Cheney Creamer of the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association has said that gardening can provide mental health benefits to families during this pandemic. The phytochemicals released by plants such as lavender and basil are soothing to humans. Nature also teaches people about constant change, growth, rebirth, and renewal. A small seed in a tiny flower pot has an effect on people. By checking up on the plant and watering and nurturing it, it gives people something to look forward to every day. The Gardener’s Handbook allows users to successfully grow their garden but also record how they feel after they’ve engaged with their plants. Users are able to choose one of five options when tracking their emotions. Keeping track of your emotions daily helps create better wellness strategies. You begin to recognize the small or big parts of your day that make you feel better. This app allows users to be more involved in their health and have a sense of control. So you see, it’s not only what you can do for the plants to be healthy, it’s also what the plants can do for you.

Canada has seen a sudden rise in gardening. John Barrett of Veseys Seeds said that orders have increased by about 450% compared to the year before. Barrett also suggested that people are deciding to spend more money in their home garden to avoid going out often. With the coronavirus rising food prices, the issue of food security becomes more prominent. Canada’s Food Price Report predicts that Canada’s food inflation rate will be 4% by the end of 2020. Having your own garden can help ease the concern. In 2009, the National Gardening Association said that for $70 in seeds and supplies, you could grow 350 pounds of vegetables worth over $600.

Gardening reaps environmental benefits as well. Non-local products in stores travel an average of 1500 miles or further. The shipping and transport associated burns fossil fuels, which produce greenhouse gases that increase global warming. When you follow the sustainability tips in The Gardener’s Handbook, such as using relatively small amounts with little or no pesticides or synthetic chemicals, you create a more environmentally friendly environment.

The Gardener’s Handbook is built on a web framework using Django. HTML and CSS were used for the app’s front-end development and python used for its back-end development. As a group, challenges we ran into were learning how to connect the website to an external weather network and creating a calendar. We learned to develop a python API that would connect the user to the weather network for daily forecasts. Creating a calendar without JavaScript to include events was a challenge we were not able to solve. After doing some reading, we decided to embed a google calendar instead.

As a team, we are proud that we were to create an aesthetic and functioning website to replicate what a mobile app will do. Prior to the hackathon, we each followed tutorials on HTML, CSS, and Django, making The Gardener’s Handbook our first project with these languages and framework.

Our next steps for this hack is to transform our website into a mobile app. In terms of features, we would implement a calendar using JavaScript. Additionally, we would implement a feature that would allow users to share a family code and sync their accounts, which will ensure the plants listed under “My Plants” and allow families to work of the same calendar for their garden.

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