Home gardening surged in interest over the past two summers, largely because people were looking for distraction during our home-bound time. (Photo: Shutterstock).

Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Home gardening surged in interest over the past two summers, largely because people were looking for distraction during our home-bound time. Seed sales went through the roof, and gardens sprouted in backyards and balconies. People young and old took up the hobby that keeps us healthy, puts food on our table, and gives us a little fresh air.

I’ve been over-the-moon excited to see this trend. Yet, once this newfound fad started hitting me where least expected, I’m no longer sure whether this is a good thing after all.

It started with a text from my niece, asking about ordering seeds and starting her own tomato plants. Thrilled to be asked, I spouted advice at every question posed between ordering and planting out her seedlings. We shopped lights and pots together and, as her plants grew and produced fruit, I kept up the encouragement as she fussed over their health like a mother hen. Now I’m receiving photos of her daily harvests that make me green with envy.

My grandson got in on the fad, planting out seedlings we started together and nurturing them like a pro. He likes order and routine, so he put his plants on a rigorous schedule of trellising, fertilizing and watering. Whenever my answers are a bit haphazard to his questions, he pauses to give me an exasperated stare, and I know I’ve got to get my act together. It’s like gardening with Mr. Spock.

Now they’re both awash in the bounty of cherry tomatoes, big beefsteaks and luscious green peppers. This is the first time I’ve ever seen basil grow to the size of a tumbleweed. I should be proud, and I am.

But with their success the list for recipients of my extra harvest shrank by two households. Instead of a dependable “yes, please” to taking fresh produce, I’m met with a disappointingly cheerful “no thanks — we’ve got plenty!” I may have made a mistake in doling out the advice.

A gardener’s list of recipients for produce is jealously guarded and cultivated for the vagaries of a garden’s bounty. Thank heavens these whippersnappers didn’t grow any zucchini, or there would be an intergenerational incident. Friends and neighbors are gardening now as well, and texting me photos of their harvest.

Substitute beneficiaries aren’t lining up to take their place, so it’s a good thing to know where to donate all the produce. Food banks and pantries are a crucial means for those needing access to fresh food to find it, and gardeners can donate excess produce to help meet the demand.

To find a location near you, check out the new Grow & Give website (growandgivecolorado.org), which has a map of the pantries and details on how and when they accept donations. For those interested in learning more about growing food, there’s also short how-to videos, longer webinars or information sheets on growing fruits and vegetables in your garden.

Sign the pledge to donate part of your harvest and join a community of concerned gardeners who want to make a difference. You can help. Donate that extra to pantries, to your neighbors who need it, or friends who have seen a decrease in income. Whether it’s a dozen carrots or a hundred tomatoes, it doesn’t matter. If you’re growing, please give.

By Carol O’Meara. Carol is an Extension Agent – Horticulture Entomology at Colorado State University Extension. For more information call 303.678.6377, e-mail [email protected] or visit ext.colostate.edu.