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Planting good feelings amid pandemic

Suffolk gardeners young and older will work on their green thumbs while they stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to Healthy Suffolk’s “Gardens to Go.”

Healthy Suffolk partnered with Johnson’s Gardens Inc. at 3201 Holland Road for the project, which was also made possible with funding from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.

Families with children ages 18 and younger and older gardeners ages 60 and older can email applications to Healthy Suffolk to win Gardens to Go free of charge. Each Garden to Go includes a large container, soil mix, seeds, plants and fertilizer. Up to 30 free Gardens to Go are being made available free of charge for qualifying families, plus 10 Gardens to Go for seniors.

According to Shelley Barlow, director of healthy food initiatives for Healthy Suffolk, there are still approximately 15 free Gardens to Go available for qualifying families as of Wednesday evening, plus eight Gardens to Go for seniors free of charge.

Applicants started collecting their Gardens to Go on Tuesday from Johnson’s Gardens Inc. with easy curbside pickup that helps encourage social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a great opportunity for the kids to plant something, especially while we’re stuck at home,” Suffolk resident Melissa Friederichs said when she stopped by Johnson’s Gardens Inc. on Tuesday morning.

Friederichs received one of the Gardens to Go for her children Dawson, 6, and Isabella, 8. She thinks it will be a good way for her children to learn about the growing process for plants.

Johnson’s Gardens owner Tim Johnson believes it’s a valuable way to teach the children gardening lessons during the pandemic, and to also spread more positivity in the community during this pandemic.

“We’ve got to entertain these kids (and) we’ve got to teach these kids, and we need to understand that we are a community, despite the fact that we don’t see each other,” Johnson said. “This is something we can support as a community. We’re learning, and we’re making people feel good.”

Qualifying families and seniors can apply to receive a Garden to Go free of charge by emailing info@healthysuffolkva.org. Families should include the ages of the children at home in their applications.

Additional Gardens to Go are also available for purchase at Johnson’s Gardens Inc., 3201 Holland Road, for $20 each, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to Healthy Suffolk.

“Home vegetable gardening offers a valuable at home family activity — something to engage and teach children, an opportunity for outdoor exercise for young and old alike, with the added bonus of growing some fresh food for your table,” Barlow wrote in a Facebook post.  “Whether you will plant a large space or try container gardening — it’s time to get started.”

Families are also encouraged to post photos of their gardening on social media. Visit facebook.com/healthysuffolk for more information. People are also encouraged to join the “Healthy Suffolk Digs” Facebook group for more gardening tips.