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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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