Cooperative gardens cropping up amid COVID-19 pandemic to help those in need

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- During World War I & II, victory gardens cropped up around the country with people doing their part for the war effort. And now with the arrival of COVID-19, those cooperative gardens are cropping up yet again to help those in need.

Garden Coordinator Oscar Arrington is literally taking matters into his own hands at the Roots Garden in Fisher Park in the Olney section of Philadelphia. He is making compost to share at the community garden and is just one of many volunteers throughout the city growing food for himself and his family.

"I like the mindfulness of the garden, pulling weeds and little simple things like that," said Arrington.

Sally McCabe, Associate Director of Community Education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, says gardening can be helpful during these uncertain times.

"If you are gardening, you're taking a little control in your life," said McCabe who is known as PHS's gardening guru. She says the number of growers and cooperative gardens has surged amid COVID-19.

"If we can just get our hands in the dirt and plant a couple seeds and actually eat the fruit of our labors, that's going to put a little stability back in our crazy lives," she said.

PHS is offering "Growinars" - online workshops to help gardeners hone their skills. McCabe says they offer, "one for kids, one for beginners, and one for people that want to start community gardens."

And PHS is urging home gardeners to be generous this year, launching an initiative called Harvest 2020 on May 21.

McCabe says PHS wants to get people to not just grow for themselves, but to grow for others.

"There's a lot of people in need and there's just so much uncertainty," she said.

Harvest 2020 is designed to complement PHS's longstanding City Harvest program that connects community gardeners with local food banks.

"Our goal is 100,000 gardeners in the tri-state area growing and sharing," said McCabe.

There are three different ways in which individuals can participate in Harvest 2020. You can pledge to "garden for the greater good" by becoming a grower, a sharer, or by making a monetary donation.

"You grow what you like," said McCabe. She says collard greens, tomatoes, and peppers are popular choices for many growers.

"One person can so make a difference," she added.

You can show off the fruits of your labor by entering the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's annual gardening contest, which will be held online this year.

It is for non-professional gardeners in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Registration is now open and runs through June 22.

Visit phsonline.org/for-gardeners/gardening-competitions to enter and for additional contest details.
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