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Pandemic drives interest in Laurel Community Garden | OLD TOWN

One local community group that blossomed amid the harsh conditions of the coronavirus pandemic is the Laurel Community Garden.

“We’ve received so many calls and inquiries about folks wanting to come out and start their own garden because of Covid,” said Dawn Williams, the president of the garden.

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The garden, tucked behind Laurel Presbyterian Church along Sandy Spring Road, has been popular since its founding in 2013. But the 2020 growing season yielded such great interest that all 56 of its individual plots were claimed.

Shortages of certain foods and rising food prices early in the pandemic encouraged people to think about growing their own food, Williams said. Gardening also offers the chance to be outdoors and is beneficial for mental and physical health — features that are attractive to residents when other activities have been curtailed.

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The start of the 2020 growing season coincided with the first COVID-19 restrictions last March, which required the garden to be flexible and adapt.

“It was definitely different because there was so much uncertainty in the beginning,” Williams said. “They didn’t know what it would look like and there were directives coming out of the city of Laurel. It took us a little while to get to the point where we were sold out, but there were a lot of new folks coming into the garden.”

The garden followed guidelines from the city, including limiting those working in the garden to 10 people at a time and enforcing social distancing measures. Gardeners were discouraged from using the shared community gardening tools that are typically available and were asked to bring their own.

Now it’s time to begin thinking about the 2021 growing season, Williams said.

“Just because it’s wintertime does not mean that you can’t take advantage of this time to do something valuable to take advantage of next growing season’s gardening,” she said.

In particular, Williams encourages gardeners to spend the winter starting seeds indoors. Doing so gives the satisfaction of growing something from seed, is a fun way to stay occupied while stuck at home, and will give gardeners an advantage when it comes time for outdoor planting in the spring.

The garden will offer a virtual presentation on starting seeds indoors on Feb. 6. The time is still to be determined, but the class will be offered for free via Zoom. The group will also offer a free Gardening 101 virtual class on March 13.

Registration to join the Laurel Community Garden for the 2021 growing season is expected to begin in late January or early February and will be handled by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Plots are available in four sizes ranging from 3-by-12 to 20-by-20.

Those interested in attending either of the virtual presentations or in renting a plot may contact the garden at laurel.community.garden@gmail.com.

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