More people turning to the backyard for fresh food and seeds are selling fast

Urban gardening is becoming a source of sustenance and hope for many

Toilet paper isn’t the only thing in short supply these days. Finding vegetable seeds to start a garden can also be hard to find.

“I’ve ordered seeds from one of the companies in Maine for 15 years and it’s the first time that they haven’t been able to ship the same day," said Michelle de Lima, director of engagement for Boston Community Gardens, a network of about 50 patches of growable land spread across Boston. "They are way behind because there’s a huge demand for them.”

De Lima says her organization is pretty popular these days with more than double the normal level of interest. “Calls always increase during the spring, but now there’s a real jump,” she said, that started when Gov. Charlie Baker enacted the statewide stay-at-home advisory at the end of March and people grew concerned about food access and economic fallout.

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Lara Lepionka, the director of Backyard Growers, a non-profit in Gloucester that helps eligible residents grow food on just about any patch of land, has seen a similar surge in interest. “We’ve had other difficult times, like the Great Recession of 2008, where I think people had the impulse to take on more management over their own food security and to be self-sufficient.”

The coronavirus outbreak is different because many people have a generalized fear of even going to the grocery store. De Lima said she started seeding greens in her garden earlier than normal when it became more difficult to get the food she wanted at the store and her fears increased about going out to buy groceries.

We spoke to two urban gardening experts to find out what you need to know if you're planning on expanding your new hobby.

Connecting with nature, and seeing something grow, can also provide a powerful antidote to what’s happening around us, de Lima said. "We spend so much thinking about what it’s going to be like in the next week, or two weeks... when you’re gardening, you’re just very present with what you’re doing.”

Gardening “does a lot for your well-being and your sense of hope,” added Lepionka, “it’s a very generative act to grow your own food.”

Both women say the best thing to do if you’re a beginner is to keep it simple and plant vegetables you know your family will eat.

Backyard Growers and Boston Community Gardens both offer extensive resources for growers of all skill levels.