WALLINGFORD — Residents who have been working from home or were furloughed because of the pandemic have been spending longer hours weeding and watering crops at the Wallingford Community Garden, which has seen a surge in membership and activity this year.
Around a third of this year’s participants purchased plots for the first time, said Gary Copas, who administers the town-owned garden with his wife Cathy Copas. All plots have been leased out for the season and they now have approximately 150 gardeners, up from 108 last year. The garden is located off East Center Street, next to Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park.
The new gardeners have been hard at work, many weeding and pruning with guidance from Copas. Walking through the garden, Copas pointed out plots belonging to teachers, insurance workers and occupational therapists who have been spending around eight hours a week tending to their plants. But the pandemic hasn’t meant spare time for everyone — Copas noticed a Visiting Nurse Association administrator has been intermittent with her visits and a Department of Labor employee never found the time to plant this year.
Copas also noticed more people have been growing food this year, rather than flowers and herbs. Some gardeners have told him it is due to concerns about imported food and worries it may become more difficult to find food in grocery stores in the future.
The 30-by-30 foot plot Wallingford resident Victor Romero has tended for the past four years grows enough to allow his family to eat at least one piece of produce from it every day. He plants tomatoes, jalapenos, cantaloupes, watermelons, broad beans and corn — which he uses to make tamales.
Since he’s been working from home, he’s found additional time to visit the plot and has noticed other gardeners have also been coming more often.
“That’s the coolest thing, when you have something you can use,” said Cathy Copas.
With good planning, a gardener can plant crops so they’ll have a steady stream of produce throughout the growing season. This time of summer the garden is brimming with excitement as everyone waits for the first ripe tomatoes.
Looking at the corn stalks shooting up in the plots around them, David Parent said he’s amazed by how quickly everything has begun growing over the past few weeks. After moving out of the home where they lived and gardened for 40 years, he and his wife Cathy Parent leased a plot.
“The last two weeks of growing have just been tremendous,” he said.
Cathy Parent said she’s been gardening since she was a kid and enjoys the tranquility.
“It’s just a chance to be alone I think with my own thoughts,” she said.