When Harriet Custer, a member of the Skagit County Master Gardeners, went to the store recently to buy seed to grow potatoes, she found something interesting: nothing.

“They were gone. Then I went online and couldn’t find any online, either,” she said.

Their absence was a sign of the increased interest people have in growing their own food, Custer said. And now the Master Gardeners have created a new page on their website to help people pursue that interest during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The effort sprouted from two factors, Custer said: a greater interest by the public, and the search for a new way for the gardening group to connect with the public.

“A lot of the activities the Master Gardeners do are shut down. We can’t do any of our face-to-face outreach,” Custer said. “We considered how we could do outreach in a virtual environment.

“There’s a lot of interest in the community for people who haven’t gardened before, or who have but are interested in growing food for their families. We decided it would be good to reach out to those folks and give them access to us so we can offer advice.”

The page took about three weeks to create and curates columns previously written for the Skagit Valley Herald about starting and constructing a garden; identifying and warding off pests; and tips on specific fruits, vegetables and other plants, among other topics. Resources from the Washington State University Skagit County Extension are included as well.

Custer said the resources on the page will likely grow and change as the seasons roll on. For example, she hopes to add information devoted to preserving food as winter nears.

Readers with questions will eventually be able to email the Master Gardeners directly from the page. Until then, Custer said they can email skagitmgplantclinic@gmail.com.

She said a group of about four people built the page over a few weeks. Considering the greater interest in gardening, they were eager to help.

“We wanted to build a site that would be a resource,” she said.

Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Sports_SVH, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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