This spring, you’ve probably had a little more time at home than usual. This kind of interruption of your daily life can be surprisingly stressful, especially when aggravated by long lines and bare shelves at the grocer’s. Perhaps this is the year for you to skip the lines and try your hand growing herbs and vegetables at home.
The prospect of fresh homegrown basil and tomatoes isn’t the only benefit from this. Psychologists agree that getting outdoors and “playing in the dirt” in your garden beds or with containers is a major stress reducer. It can also be transformed into a family activity for children kept home due to school shutdowns. That’s definitely a win-win.
I can almost hear you thinking “But the last thing I need is to do more shopping!” I understand. That’s why I’ve collected a few ideas to help you garden this spring with a minimum of fuss and bother.
Seeds and Plants
Any garden needs actual plants. This means you need to get your hands on some seeds, 4-inch pots from nurseries, or cuttings from a plant.
Still got seeds from last year? Great! Most of them may still be able to germinate. Here’s how to check. Place 10 seeds on a damp paper towel and cover with plastic for a week. Then count how many opened up to grow. Did three grow? Then you only have 30% that will germinate.
If you don’t have seeds laying around at home, you don’t have far to look. Shopping trips may be few and far between but nearly every drug store, grocery store, or home hardware store has a display of seeds for sale. When you buy be sure to take a peek at the back of the package. You should see “Packed for 2020” or something similar. Anything packed and shipped last year might not germinate.
Some nurseries have closed down but others have curbside pickup or home delivery available. Have a list before you call to order. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, ask for an alternate. They want to help you succeed. Don’t forget to include a bag of potting soil and perhaps a pair of garden gloves.
Not sure you want to buy new plants? You can also take cuttings from your spring garden and create new plants to fill out your garden. Cut a 4-6 inch section of spring growth and strip off the bottom half of the leaves. Place the cutting in damp potting soil and keep it moist but not soggy. In a couple of weeks, you should see new growth. Congratulations, you now have a new plant.
Pots and Potting Soil
Of course, seeds and cuttings need to be put into something. You’ll want some pots and potting soil. But before you go out and buy something, take inventory of what you have.
Chances are sometime over the winter you bought or received a live plant that is now dead or just languishing. All those holiday poinsettias come immediately to mind. The plant may be dead or nearly there but the soil and pot can be recycled for your spring garden.
This next suggestion might sound a bit drastic, but you might want to take a hard look at any houseplants you have. Are they struggling woefully to stay alive? Perhaps it’s time to say good-bye and recycle the container and soil. Switching from ornament to edible is a smart move in these wild and crazy times.
Before you start planting in your recycled container, make sure that the potting soil is thoroughly moist. Soil that has been drying out in the garage or neglected on the porch becomes “super dry” and actually is resistant to absorbing water. Water the pot, wait a few minutes, then water again. Do this until the center of the potting soil finally absorbs water. Check by digging down into the pot and feeling for moisture.
Whatever you do to get ready to plant in pots, don’t just dig up some garden soil. That soil tends to have what horticulturist call “a denser structure,” which causes problems for young seedlings and plants. Trust me, it just won’t work right.
Don’t find what you’re looking for locally? Smart phones to the rescue! The tradition of ordering garden plants, seeds, and materials for delivery is not new. Your great-grandparents were ordering the latest varieties of tomatoes and squash as far back as the Civil War. The internet just makes it faster to find what you want and even do a little comparison shopping.
Take advantage of this unexpected break from your usual activities to start an edible garden. It will help reduce your stress levels and you’ll start to harvest fresh herbs and veggies faster than you think. Let’s get out there and garden!