Growing a COVID-19 Victory Garden


Thanks to an online course from OSU, Oregonians can now learn gardening skills – for free

CORVALLIS – During WWII, the U.S. government encouraged American families to convert yards and even park space into so-called Victory Gardens, to grow their own fruit and vegetables at a time when the country was at war.

This spring, as Oregonians hunker at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, many families are taking a page from the past – and fortunately, Oregon is a great place to get soil under your fingernails.

“People are at home and particularly with kids, and we are seeing a surge in people who are super interested in starting their own vegetable gardens,” said Sign Danler, an instructor with the Master Gardener Online Program at Oregon State University.

Spurred by a severalfold increase in public questions about garden topics, the OSU Extension Service decided on March 20 to offer for free its online beginner vegetable gardening class, which typically costs $45. Since, interest has multiplied like zucchini in late summer.

As of March 19, just 15 people had signed up. With the cost waived, and with Oregonians are staying home, registrations have surged to about 1,000…per day.

On April 10, there were almost 26,000 people enrolled. The class is self-paced, and you can start as soon as you register. It includes short modules on where to set up a garden, creating the best soil, when to plant, and how to tend veggies.

“Somebody who knows nothing will be able to start a good garden,” Danler said.

Depending on your pace, the entire course will take about four to six hours. You can take the class on any connected device, even a smartphone. And while you can take a voluntary quiz at the end, there’s no final exam or anything like that.

Gail Langellotto, a horticulture professor and statewide coordinator of the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program, said the primary drivers for the interest in gardening appears to be concerns about food supply and safety – as well as an opportunity to find things to do at home.

OSU Master Gardeners are volunteers who answer questions about gardening, and the extension service gets about 150,000 calls in a typical year, she said.

She said she hopes the surge in interest in gardening this year also may help to reconnect the public to the kaleidoscope of services available from the OSU Extension, which is active is every Oregon county and offers advice about everything from beer-making to food preservation to support for farmers.

“People may not know they have the Extension in their own backyards, and they can get to know what Extension can offer at this unique time in history,” Langellotto said.

Growing Your Own, an OSU Extension guide written by Langellotto, is the accompanying reading for the vegetable course.

The Extension initially planned to make the class free until the end of April, but due to the massive interest, the decision was made to make it free for the remainder of the 2020 season.

You can register here.

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James Sinks is the Financial Education Program Manager with the State Treasury

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