MORGANTOWN,W.Va. – A West Virginia University Extension Service gardening program has seen an increase in sign-ups during the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 2,300 West Virginians have signed up for Grow This: WV Garden Challenge, an annual program by the West Virginia University Extension Service’s Family Nutrition Program that encourages home gardening. 

Grow This, which launched in 2018, usually has a few hundred participants each year, according to a press release. However, the program has seen a surge in interest after the outbreak began shutting down businesses and schools.

Participation is free, and every few weeks, participants, who sign up through a short online survey, will receive a packet of seeds in the mail. In addition, Family Nutrition Program staff members in some counties are distributing growing kits, along with school lunch deliveries. This year’s crops will be microgreens, peas, tomatoes and butternut squash, according to the release.

WVU said Participants can also receive support from Family Nutrition Program health educators and WVU Extension agents, and participate in a Facebook community of nearly 2,000 fellow gardeners.

The Facebook page is also where Family Nutrition Program staff members will keep participants informed about special growing contests and challenges that will take place throughout the growing season, the release stated.