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Sacramento sees surge in gardening interest

Landscape photo of Fremont garden
The Fremont Community Garden in Midtown Sacramento has a waiting list of more than 200 names.
(Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Demand high for community plots; two new gardens coming soon

A garden is like a new puppy. With that pet comes responsibility to help it grow. Ignore it; bad things are going to happen.

Right now, there are a lot of new COVID-19 Victory Gardens out there as folks discover the joy of doing something constructive outdoors during a pandemic. And like inexperienced pet parents, these newbie gardeners have a lot to learn, including patience and coping with unforeseen circumstances.

Bill Maynard, who is in charge of the City of Sacramento's network of community gardens, recently returned to his duties full-time after being sidelined by the shutdown for about 10 weeks. He compared the current surge in interest to that of 2008 at the beginning of the Great Recession. During hard times, vegetable gardening can feed a family while saving money.

People need food, but often, have no time or expertise to grow their own. The pandemic gave them time to try.

All they need is space. That's where the community gardens come in.

"There's huge demand," Maynard said. "I've been getting a lot of calls. We're seeing another spike in vegetable gardening. People are at home, they want access to food."

Sacramento's 18 city-run community gardens are almost all at capacity. The waiting list for Midtown’s Fremont Community Garden, which has 55 plots, is more than 200-people long.

"I've been getting three calls a day (asking for plots)," Maynard said. "People want to grow."

Artichoke plant in the Fremont garden
Artichokes grow well at the Fremont garden. Growing food is more
popular than ever, but it does require a time commitment.

To help meet local demand, Sacramento plans to add two more community gardens within the next nine months. Both projects have been in the works long before the pandemic. The Northwest Natomas garden is scheduled to open in August, just in time for fall planting. Another garden is expected to be ready in spring 2021.

Will these new COVID gardeners keep gardening when life returns to "normal"? They need nurturing, and so do their gardens.

"A garden is a lifestyle change," Maynard said. "It's a new commitment to them. You can't go out of town for four months this summer, if you could, and expect it to be OK when you get back."

Treat your garden "like a new puppy," he added. "You've got to play with it, water it, feed it, love it. Or it won't do very well."


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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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