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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 March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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