Just three months ago, very few people had ever heard of the phrase “social distancing.” Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single adult anywhere in the world who is unfamiliar with the term or its meaning.
As the pandemic continues, social distancing is recognized as one of the most important things we can do to slow the spread of the coronavirus and minimize the occurrence of COVID-19, the disease it causes. Even though certain areas are relaxing their isolation requirements, many areas— including the Mid-Atlantic states— are slower to let up on restrictions as they brace for a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases.
If you’re still self-isolating at home, alone, or with your immediate family, you may be running out of things to do to keep you busy and feeling productive. Better weather is allowing us to get outside more often, which is good news… and now that the frost date has passed in many areas, gardening is a great way to pass the time in a productive, gratifying way.
Do you have a sunny area anywhere on your property? Even a grassy lawn is prime for being repurposed into a few raised beds. Why not consider growing some of your own fresh vegetables and fruits during this “confined to quarters” time? Harvesting fresh, homegrown produce is a healthy and budget-friendly activity that even the youngest members of your family will enjoy.
Get Your Soil Right
Conditioning your soil is also key to gardening success. If you’re repurposing a flower bed as a fruit or vegetable garden, chances are your soil has already been improved. Do a little research and figure out what your intended plants need based on the soil you already have. If you have a dense, clay-like soil, you may want to work in some sand to improve your drainage.
Adding a bit of processed cow manure and a bag or two of soil conditioner can go a long way toward enriching your soil. Check online or call your local garden center for some more recommendations for fertilizers and other soil conditioners once you have chosen the crops you’d like to grow.
Choose Healthy Small Plants
Lettuces and potatoes should already be in the ground by now, but there’s still time to plant some herbs and heat-tolerant vegetables. Many plant nurseries are considered essential businesses, but do check their website or call in advance. If you can find one open, you can easily purchase small plants such as green beans, okra, and basil. Squash, melons, and cucumbers like the heat, but watch out for caterpillars and other pests throughout the summer.
Another summer classic, homegrown vegetable are tomatoes, but the beefsteak varieties can be challenging to grow. If you’re hankering for tomatoes and you’re a beginner, try opting for cherry tomato plants— they tend to be a bit more cooperative, even in spite of unseasonal heat, disease, and pests. Accomplished gardeners often start these crops from seed, but if you’re a beginner and you’re just getting started, rely on small plants from a garden center or home improvement store.
Consider Container Gardening
Some people who live in urban areas, assisted living communities, condo units, or apartment buildings may not have yards in which to garden. Many suburban neighborhoods have homeowner associations that prohibit vegetable gardens.
These are the perfect settings in which to grow attractive, food-yielding plants like peppers, eggplant, or basil in containers. Use a large, half-barrel container for tomatoes or okra. Smaller containers between 14–18 inches will work very well for peppers and herbs.
There are quite a few things about self-isolation and social distancing that are difficult, but finding a new hobby while sheltering in place might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. So unearth your gardening gloves and trowels, order some online, or mask up and head to your local garden center to purchase some. It’s the perfect time to get outdoors and get busy gardening— you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labors right up until the first frost in October!
Happy Social Distancing…and Let’s Get Gardening!