In an effort to fight pandemic-induced boredom, more people turned to gardening last year, a trend local experts anticipate will continue this growing season.
Ken Roberts, president of the Clarkston Community Garden, said the nonprofit organization sold out of garden beds as people rented out space to grow their own produce.
“It varies every year, but about 5 to 10 percent of the beds typically don’t rent out,” Roberts said. “I think people weren’t sure how much food they were going to be able to get because of the virus, so they turned to gardening.”
The garden, located next to Walla Walla Community College’s Clarkston campus, has 47 beds available for rent. The remainder of the space is used by volunteers who grow food that is later donated to food banks and churches. Last year, the volunteers donated 2,000 pounds of produce, or about 500 pounds more than usual.
Roberts said he expects about 90 percent of those who rented space to return this year and has already fielded requests from others who are looking for a plot.
“I really think we’ll sell out again,” he said. “I’ve already had people call up and ask about space.”
The interest in gardening has been growing nationwide for several years, but Mark Heitstuman, executive director of the Washington State University Extension offices in Asotin and Garfield counties, said the pandemic helped fuel an uptick.
“One of the reasons there’s a lot of interest is because people are interested in food security, both locally, as well as across the state and nationwide,” Heitstuman said. “It’s not necessarily cheaper, and it takes a lot of time to grow your own fruits and vegetables, but it comes with a lot of satisfaction of knowing what goes into the ground and having control of that whole food cycle.”
Heitstuman said gardening provided people with a safe outdoor activity that allowed them to socially distance from each other during the pandemic. He expects the increased interest to continue this season.
The WSU Extension office works closely with the Clarkston Community Garden, which features a Master Gardeners demonstration garden.
The office holds various gardening events throughout the year and also helps people identify insect problems and learn more about plant diseases.
It offers a plant clinic each week, which took place virtually last year, but Heitstuman said that will likely return to an in-person format soon as counties advance through Washington state’s reopening phases.
To inquire about space, or volunteer, at the Clarkston Community Garden, people can call Roberts at (509) 758-6849 or go to www.clarkstongarden.com.
To learn about more gardening events offered through the extension office, people are encouraged to go to the “WSU Asotin County Master Gardeners” Facebook page, or go online to www.extension.wsu.edu/asotin.