Gardening has become so popular during the forced downtime of the pandemic that many sources are reporting shortages on some seed varieties.

"Especially with the pandemic, gardening has become an interest," said Catoosa County Agriculture & Natural Resource Agent Julia Willingham. "There's been a growing interest in our area."

To help meet the needs of the area's growing population of gardeners, she recently launched a garden club through the county's Extension Office.

With only one meeting under her belt, Willingham's already had 45 people sign up, she said.

The group meets the last Friday of the month via Zoom starting at 7 p.m. While each month will feature a specific topic and sometimes guest speakers, the meetings are informal, a place to bounce ideas off of one another and ask questions, she said.

"I'm hoping to offer a group setting — that's a little difficult with COVID — but essentially a community of people interested in gardening so we can also provide topics of interest for discussion, educational material, and an outlet where people who are having issues in their garden can go to get answers," said Willingham.

The club will focus on issues common to Catoosa County, such as soil quality and preparation, the topic of the first meeting, she said, but anyone is welcome to attend.

"We're here for educational purposes and to make sure people are getting the correct, research-based information they need," Willingham said.

While there are some community garden clubs in the area, Catoosa's Extension Office hasn't had one in several years, she said.

"The UT Extension [in Chattanooga] does offer a lot of programs as well, and we know some folks in Catoosa have gone to those programs but we thought we'd offer something in our little community," she said, adding that Walker County's Extension Office has a Master Gardener program.

Such programs tend to be fairly involved, said Willingham — which is perhaps why the Catoosa County Extension Office's Master Gardener program died out before she took over as the county's Extension agent two years ago.

"Eventually it'd be great if it turned into a Master Gardener program," she said of the new club, "but there's a lot involved and a lot of commitment with Master Gardener programs, so it may not be everybody's cup of tea. But maybe it is. This just seemed like a good place to start."

Those interested can email her at for more on the club, including the log-in information and password required to join the virtual meetings. After each meeting, she said she plans to share a summary of the night's discussion, along with related resources.

Contact Jennifer Bardoner at