COVID-19 spurred many a green thumb in 2020. Gardening in the U.S. boomed during the spring and summer months of the pandemic. In , vegetable plots popped up all over the city, while newcomers and veterans alike enjoyed the city’s recently relocated , too.

For local residents Tom and Laurie Holubeck, the virus wasn’t entirely to thank for their expanded interest in home-grown produce – this spring’s tornado gets most of the credit for that – but it did take them on a deeper dive than ever before.

Tom and Laurie Holubeck expanded their home garden during the COVID-19 quarantine this year, building a new 8-by-8-foot raised bed in their side yard.

The Holubecks, who have lived on Poage Farm Road for 24 years, constructed an 8-by-8-foot raised bed in their side yard after dabbling as a hobby for years. In addition to growing vegetables – including tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant, which is particularly flourishing in the early fall – they’ve since accelerated their conservation efforts overall.

“It all aligns with everything we believe in – doing our part for the environment,” Laurie Holubeck said. “It’s made us aware of the habits that we can change.”

While the state was in shutdown, the couple also started composting. Larger food scraps go outside, and a worm bin inside produces the fertilizer they need. They dug out a rain barrel that had been collecting dust. They’ve also significantly cut down on waste and say they have an entirely new outlook on food.

The couple started gardening initially in containers, growing tomatoes in small pots in the backyard. But for 2020, they expanded those efforts, spurred when April’s F1 tornado took out a huge tree in their front yard.

While that tree is missed – the Holubecks said it was among the oldest and tallest on the street – its absence exposed their side yard to full sun. The plants have thrived. They plan on doubling the size of the bed next year.

“It’s been really nice. It’s kept us occupied,” Laurie Holubeck said. “There’s a lot of mental stress relief that comes with being outside. And sharing [extra vegetables with neighbors] has been really nice, too.”

While the couple has bigger and better plans next year – they want to add in some new vegetables, too – they are open to helping others get started. Their biggest advice? Start small.

“It can be intimidating, and it takes time, but it’s not really hard,” Tom Holubeck said. “Don’t be afraid to do it. It’s good exercise, you get fresh air, and it’s been a great brain scrub at the end of a day. It’s given us a whole different perspective on how we live.”

Joan Callahan, who tends two plots at the Wyoming garden on , said quarantine gave her more time to enjoy and tend to the garden she already had – her teen daughter, who is doing school remotely, was able to help. For Joey Shaffer, who lives on with his wife Regina and three kids, Jack (6), Leona (4) and Eloise (2), his family decided to purchase a plot at the community garden for the first time this spring.

From left, Eloise (2), Jack (6) and Leona (4) Shaffer, plant a spring harvest at the Wyoming community garden on Van Roberts Place. The Shaffers decided to purchase a plot for the first time this spring as a distraction during the early stages of COVID-19.

“We thought it would be a great way to distract us during the early stages of COVID,” he said.

He said they planted a successful spring and summer harvest and just got their fall seeds in the ground. He did run into minor supply issues when purchasing seedlings, and many of the local nurseries he talked to say they have never seen demand like they did. But he called the experience “very therapeutic, although frustrating at times.”

He said they plan to keep the plot going into next year.

“We learned a lot along the way,” he said.