Bumper crop of pandemic gardens expected this year

BOSTON — Last year saw a lot of people getting their hands dirty planting so-called pandemic gardens.

It was the first time many people grew their own food. Boston 25 News reported how seeds were hard to come by at one point last spring.

Luce Corona of Gloucester is ready to start gardening again this year. She’s already planting her peas.

She loved her first experience gardening last year and was pleased with her success.

“I had a lot of kale, a lot of peas, and green beans. Tomatoes grew like crazy,” she said.

Like many rookies, Corona was prompted by the pandemic.

“It was going to be hard for us to be able to get to the store and bring it home. We didn’t know who was touching the vegetables, the food. I thought it was a good idea for us to plant our own food.”

Corona got help from Backyard Growers, a Gloucester nonprofit that teaches people how to get a lot of food out of a little space.

“Right away when the pandemic started in March, the applications for our community garden program tripled instantly, and we had a high demand for our backyard garden program,” explained Lara Lepionka, Executive Director of Backyard Growers. “We find that there’s been no lull in excited and in fact, we’re seeing the demand grow now in 2021.”

Lepionka created Backyard Growers in 2008 during the Great Recession when food security was also top of mind.

“Just the incredible power of growing your own food and bringing something forth,” said Lepionka. “It’s very generative and very empowering.”

Lepionka advises new gardeners to start simple, focusing on plants like beans and lettuce which are easy to grow.

She says to plant vegetables that are more likely to be eaten by family members.

Take the time to do some online research at sites like:

Finally, people who live in urban areas should get the soil tested for contaminants like lead.

Easy steps like these can yield big results according to Corona.

“When you sit and eat your own food, it’s totally different than if you would buy it at the supermarket. It’s your work coming to the table.”

Another benefit of gardening is the effect it has on mood. The ability to connect with nature has proven to be a powerful positive influence on mental health.

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