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Cooperative Extension offers free seeds for CoronaVictory Gardens

Posted 17 April 2020 at 7:55 am

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County

KNOWLESVILLE – Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orleans County is promoting gardening during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to boost morale and personal food supply – a modern day Victory Garden.

Historically, Victory Gardens were promoted during WWI and WWII to ease the strain of food shortages brought on by wartime efforts. Today, because the coronavirus pandemic has impacted people’s lives in countless ways, NY residents are again looking to their own backyards or sunny windowsills to support their family’s food consumption.

Horticulture departments at CCE associations statewide have been seeing surges of inquiries from residents interested in learning about gardening. To respond to this need, Cornell Cooperative Extension has developed the “Just Plant it, NY!” program to support the efforts of home gardeners across the state.

The CCE Garden-Based Learning website has compiled gardening resources from Master Gardener Training and other teaching forums and made them available free to the public to support gardening efforts during these challenging times.  Click here to find video tutorials, tips for starting a garden, and garden-based activity ideas for youth and adults.

At the local level, Orleans County CCE Horticulture Educator Katie Oakes created CoronaVictory Garden Seed Kits with seed packets left over from last year’s Library Seed Bank program. The seed kits will be offered for free on the front porch of the Orleans County CCE office. Each seed kit contains 3-4 packets of food-based seeds (vegetables, fruit, or herbs) and 2-3 packets of flower seeds.

The envelopes are sealed to ensure the safety and quality of the seed packets inside – and also to keep the specific varieties of seeds a surprise for participants. Seeds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and to make sure the program has the furthest reach possible in our community, we are asking that each family take just one seed packet. Seeds are self-service and supplies are limited. The Orleans County CCE office is located at the 4-H Fairgrounds, 12690 State Rt 31, Albion, NY.

Orleans County CCE 4-H Coordinator Kristina Gabalski also recognizes the importance of growing a garden for both physical and emotional health.

“I plan to encourage all of our 4-H families in Orleans County to consider growing a Victory Garden this year,” Gabalski said. “It will be a way to build community during a time of physical distancing as well as grow knowledge and self-sufficiency. Gardens are a great source of hope in the future and can be therapeutic in times of stress and uncertainty.”

Gabalski has already heard from at least one 4-H family that is planning a Victory Garden this year. The Gregoire family of Murray has already selected some seeds from the extension office to get a head start on growing their food plants.

“Mom taught us why Victory Gardens were planted,” the Gregoire children wrote in an email to Gabalski describing their Victory Garden. “We have already picked out most of the seeds, and we are going to purchase tomato plants through the 4-H Leader’s Plant Sale from Kirby’s.”

The Gregoires have also amended their garden beds with rabbit and horse manure to increase the nutrients available for their plants once they are in the ground.

But gardening isn’t limited to just those with rabbit and horse manure! Anyone with a small yard or even a sunny patio or window can grow something.

“I really want to make sure that people don’t feel intimidated by starting a garden,” Oakes said. “With a little guidance, some basic materials, and a willingness to try, gardening can be a really fun and rewarding hobby.”

To further support our county’s residents in starting a garden, Oakes will be offering a free Seed Starting class via Zoom on Thursday, April 23 at 7 p.m. The class will focus on basics like reading a seed packet, materials needed to get started, seedling maintenance, etc.

To join the class, please email Katie Oakes at klo54@cornell.edu to receive the Zoom invitation link. Oakes is also available by email to answer any gardening questions that come up throughout the growing season. Find more details about local horticulture or 4-H programs as well as other extension resources at orleans.cornell.cce.edu.