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Mainers saying hello to backyard growing during coronavirus pandemic

Lisa Steele of Fresh Eggs Daily and Gary Howard of the Urban Garden Center offering tips for first time Maine backyard food growers during coronavirus, COVID-19

MAINE, USA — Lisa Steele has become a familiar name in a lot of Maine households throughout the past few years. When it comes to gardening and chicken raising, her 'Fresh Eggs Daily' social media platforms indicate that she does, indeed, know what she's doing.

Steele says that this year, because of the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, she's seen more people who want to emulate her lifestyle. While Mainers are staying healthy at home during the coronavirus pandemic, many of them are spending more time in their backyards and working on their green thumbs -- for some, perhaps for the first time.

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

"We kind of do have to live on what we grow more than ever," Steele explained to NEWS CENTER Maine, adding, "I really do think that this (pandemic)...put the scare into people... We're so used to just going to the grocery store and buying whatever we need."

It's why she's encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and take on this new hobby to distract their minds, feed their families, and get outside. She suggests starting small, so as to not get overwhelmed.

"Don't feel like you have to rototiller an acre," Steele expressed. "You can just take a couple planters, and you can plant tomatoes, peas, or cucumbers." 

Gary Howard, owner of the Urban Garden Center, also recommends using containers to start out. He says that products like Swiss chard, lettuce, kale, and tomatoes will grow well that way -- but they shouldn't all be started from seeds at this point in the season.

"I'd probably stay away from planting tomatoes right now by seed," Howard cautioned. "I would probably go support a local farmer and grab some seedlings from them."

RELATED: Growing your own vegetables during the coronavirus pandemic

Howard says it's best to keep fertilizers and pest repellent natural, too.

"You're putting those chemicals into your food, and you're going to eat them," Howard told NEWS CENTER Maine.

Perhaps you've already mastered your garden and are looking for a new challenge. In that case, Steele recommends considering welcoming some feathery friends into the mix. Chickens are a great option to get protein from home through their eggs -- and, no, you don't need a rooster to make that happen.

"When you're home and the kids are home, you can teach them responsibility (and) chores," Steele said about added benefits of raising chickens. "You know, just empathy for animals. I think there's a lot of lessons there."

According to Steele, eggs are also likely to last longer than your produce, too. 

"As long as they haven't been washed and they're fresh, you can leave them out on the counter for a couple of weeks," Steele emphasized. "Or, they last in the fridge for months."

Feed stores are considered essential businesses, so you can pick up chicks there. Steele says all they need is some type of coop to protect them from predators -- and then feed and a little bit of time spent roaming outside every day.

RELATED: Thinking of raising chickens, here is some helpful information.

Whatever route you choose to take, there's one thing that will likely stay the same -- the sense of, quite literally, reaping the reward at the end of the day.

"I think the biggest benefit is the sense of accomplishment. You know, you prepare your garden, plant your food, you harvest it," Howard said. "There's nothing better than that."

Howard also recommends that gardeners visit the University of Maine Cooperative Extension website for more detailed tips about what to plant and when. Happy gardening!

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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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