Hennepin and Anoka county Master Gardener programs will give away hundreds of flats of perennials and vegetables after canceling their annual May plant sales because of social restrictions related to COVID-19.

“We want to get these plants where people can see them,” said Jamie Spanks, interim director of the Anoka County program.

But selling the plants at the annual gatherings was off limits this year, and selling online wasn’t an option. So rather than cancel their orders with wholesaler Glacial Ridge Growers in Prior Lake, they’re giving them away.

The gardening programs are funded by the counties and tied to the University of Minnesota Extension service, which has canceled all in-person activities through May 31. Hennepin’s plant sale was set for May 16; Anoka was set to sell May 12-13.

Hennepin will be donating mostly vegetables, while Anoka will distribute hardy perennials to community spaces throughout the county.

The Hennepin County program this year is working with Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council in the city’s sustainability division to get the plants to community gardens. Homegrown Minneapolis works with food-insecure communities in the city.

“Quite honestly, wherever the plants go, I just want them put to good use,” said Terry Straub, extension educator in the Hennepin County program.

The Master Gardener programs are run mainly by volunteers who take phone calls and provide research-based horticultural information and conduct programs that inform and educate the public about gardens and the environment.

Straub said Hennepin County usually raises about $30,000 from the sale. Anoka raises about half as much, Spanks said.

An official from the Minneapolis program said the details about where the plants will go are still being worked out.

Twitter: @rochelleolson