Enjoy gardening while doing social distancing
As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing numbers of people are working and sheltering at home. Although no one even heard of it a year ago, social distancing is a crucial step in reducing the transmission of this very contagious and dangerous virus.
Gardening is the perfect social distancing activity.
Cabin fever can set in with everyone trying to stay home, and some people may think this cure may be worse than the disease. It is definitely not, and gardening can help make it enjoyable.
I’ve spoken with my Extension colleagues from around the country -- on the phone, of course -- and we’re all finding there’s an increased interest in gardening. I’m calling this gardening response to the pandemic the “COVID-19 Victory Garden.”
Many garden centers are still open and helping shoppers keep their distance. Other are offering online shopping, sharing pictures of what looks good and loading the plants for you.
But since much of this gardening response is from people who have never gardened before, they are looking for information on getting started.
Some of the best advice on getting started comes from the National Garden Bureau. The original Victory Gardens arose in response to World War II. The National Garden Bureau updated its information with 10 Tips for Victory Garden 2.0.
Here are a few Victory Garden tips:
* Know your growing zone. While gardening is the same across the country, your growing zone determines when you start. For instance, in south Mississippi, we’re transplanting tomatoes, while in Cincinnati, Ohio, gardeners have to wait until May 15 to do this. Many resources on the web will help you determine your growing zone.
* Make a list of vegetables your family likes to eat. It may be easy to grow green beans, but it make no sense if your family won’t eat them. Also, decide how many plants of each vegetable to grow. For instance, if you like zucchini a couple of times a week, only grow two plants. Don’t grow a dozen plants unless you want to give away dozens of zucchinis.
* Decide what you can grow from seed and what you should buy as transplants. Large-seeded vegetables like corn, beans and cucumbers easily grow from seed. But new gardeners will find it much easier to buy tomato and peppers transplants than to try to grow them from seed.
* Plan your garden space. When does your garden gets the most sun? Are you going to grow in containers, in raised beds or in the ground? Answers to these questions impact what you should grow.
* Know your soil or buy good gardening mixes. Soil testing is a great way to get your garden off to a good start. The Mississippi State University Extension Service can test your soil; visit http://extension.msstate.edu/content/soil-testing to learn how to send in a sample. If you’re going to grow in containers don’t mix your own soil. I recommend buying a quality commercial growing mix that has been engineered for great container performance.
* Follow the suggested planting and sowing dates. For the best information for Mississippi, consult the Extension publication Garden Tabloid, available at http://extension.msstate.edu/publications/publications/garden-tabloid.
Find more National Garden Bureau recommendations at www.ngb.org/2020/03/23/victory-garden-2-0.
Remember, the garden is never cancelled. We’re all alone in this together.