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Gardening season in full bloom, as Mainers get creative during COVID-19

Sprague's Nursery & Garden Center and Bangor's community gardens are adapting to new demands, as Mainers work on their green thumbs during the coronavirus pandemic.

BANGOR, Maine — Life hasn't slowed down during the coronavirus pandemic for Melissa Higgins, a manager at Sprague's Nursery & Garden Center's wholesale department in Bangor. If anything, it's just become even more busy.

"Business has really picked up for us," Higgins told NEWS CENTER Maine via video call. "Our phones have been nonstop."

That's because Sprague's is adapting to social distancing protocols, posting pictures and video of its stock online and taking calls from people who want to place orders. Those items are then placed outside for pick-up, to make sure employees and buyers stay healthy.

"Because we've got staff here that we really love and care about -- and customers -- we decided to do the curbside pick-up," Higgins explained.

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So, why the big boom all of a sudden -- even for first-time gardeners who may not have a green thumb yet? Higgins says it's a great way for people to get outside while stuck at home with extra time and learn to self-sustain.

"People are a little bit conscientious of food, and so they want to grow a few things themselves this year," Higgins expressed. "I think it will be a great vegetable year."

Philicia Kinney of Stockton Springs is one of those first time Maine gardeners this spring.

"Really, this decision was to get my teenager outside and actually do something with him, since we're both home right now," Kinney relayed to NEWS CENTER Maine via FaceTime.

She says that she also wanted to find a way to get creative and have something to do, since she understands how important it is right now to just stay home.

"I want to do my best to follow the guidelines set forth (by the CDC) and to protect, you know, myself and my son and my husband."

In Orrington, James Yocius is taking on his third year of gardening after discovering his passion for it a few seasons ago.

"Taking care of growing things is awesome," Yocius explained over the phone. "I mean, you start it, and it's a tiny little sprout -- and two, three, four months (later), it just turns into a giant plant that gives you food."

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Staff members at the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department have decided to work with the public to make sure people can still use the community garden located on Essex Street.

"We've sent out emails to everybody," said Debbie Gendreau, the assistant director at Bangor Parks and Rec. "We have signs on the front that everybody has to follow the CDC guidelines, and they have to be at least six feet away from each other."

Additionally, Gendreau says that the shared tool-shed will be closed, so people need to bring their own supplies. The good news, though -- last week, there were still 31 of 206 gardening beds available, at $20 a piece for the summer.

So, whether you're planting at home or in a community garden, on the ground or in a raised bed -- most people would agree that planting seeds this season is a good way to develop strong roots for the future.

"When you're planting a garden, you're not planting it for just today. I mean, we're thinking long-term," Higgins smiled. "We're thinking in the future -- and hopefully for us, our future is brighter than what we're kind of dealing with today."

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.newscentermaine.com/coronavirus.

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