Social Companions in the Garden.

 Feeling Claustrophobic or trapped during this Quarantine crisis? Trying to avoid COVID-19? If so…why not reorganize your plans with companions in the garden.

Amist of all the talk about COVID-19, spring has sprung and now is the time to seriously consider other types of companionship. What about that garden you’ve been talking about starting. Times are changing right before our eyes and we need to be prepared for the future.

Starting a garden is a major move to being semi-self sufficient when it comes to having your own fruits, veggies, herbs or medicine. Let’s dive in.

Starting a Garden

So what do you like to grow? Starting a garden is easy and it does not mean that you only have to plant tomatoes and strawberries. It could be your favorite plants, like Hostas, or even a rose garden. Starting a garden does not mean you have to plant outside. You can grow inside too! The goal is to beat that claustrophobic feeling… by keeping busy, while social distancing yourself from others. There are plenty of gardeners who prefer to conversate with their plants, some even play soothing relaxation music, and even sing to them.

The first thing you need to do is find a location. This spot should be conducive to the plants you want to grow. If you are gardening for food, at least 6 hours of sunshine is ideal, 8 hours would be better. Pick a relativel

y flat spot for your garden because it’s more difficult and time-consuming to deal with a sloping garden. If you choose vegetables and/or herbs for their contributions to your dinner table, identify which ones your family will eat or is willing to try. If you are gardening your favorite plants, then do a little research about each one and see if they like it sunny or prefer being in the shade. Now you need to determine the soil conditions at that location.

Testing Your Soil’s pH Without a Kit

The amount of acid or alkaline in your soil will determine the success of your garden. You want to provide a growthful balance to both of these to increase the uptake of nutrients in the soil. With few household items you can test the soil yourself. So grab a handful of soil from two different areas in the garden. Mix together in a cup. Get two more cups and add two teaspoons of mixed soil in each cup. In one cup add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the soil. If it fizzes, you have alkaline soil, with a pH between 7 and 8. If it doesn’t fizz after doing the vinegar test, add distilled water to the other container until 2 teaspoons of soil are muddy. Add 1/2 cup baking soda. If you get a fizz you have acidic soil. This indicates the pH is somewhere around 5 and 6. Your soil is at optimum growing capacity when no signs of fizzing have occurred. That puts you in the ballpark, with a pH of 6 to 7. 

A Garden Routine

Create a routine or timetable for yourself. Create a schedule for planting, watering and caring for your plants. If you don’t already have one, order or search online for a good gardening guide to learn more about planting, growing, and caring for the plants you already have, or the ones that you intend to grow. Learning more about the more popular vegetables, fruits,herbs, flowers, bulbs,shrubs and houseplants. Check growing guides to identify hardiness zones, sun exposure, soil type, soil pH, harvesting tips, and pests problems. It’s all about keeping busy!

Nature/Growing Indoors

 Growing an indoor herb garden is the best first step for beginners who want to try indoor gardening. They are simple to grow and maintain and they help you develop skills to transition from seeds to indoor vegetable gardens.

Purchase seeds from a trusted or reliable source. Higher quality seeds that have a higher germination rate (this means more plants from the seeds will sprout) will give you a head start in growing fruits and vegetables that are both nutritious and delicious. 

Next, you want to plant, with a seed-starting mix. These mixes provide the ideal conditions for sprouting seeds as they don’t contain any actual soil. A seed starting mix provides a good balance of drainage and water-holding capacity, they minimize problems with disease on vulnerable seedlings. If at all possible don’t use garden soil to start seeds indoors, it doesn’t drain well and may contain plant disease spores.

Make sure your germination containers have drainage holes. You can use recycled biodegradable pots, or even 4-6 ounce plastic 6 pack containers, to use as starters. Poking small holes at the bottom of each will help drain the soil and prevent your seeds from being over watered.

Check the seed packet for planting depth, and be careful not to plant any deeper than the directions suggest. When planting, use a shallow amount of soil to cover small seeds and for larger seeds like beans, plant them about an inch deep, both are sown this way to make sure the seeds have enough stored energy to make it to the surface. Always plant extra seeds in case some of them don’t germinate. Set the containers in a warm place after sowing, and check them everyday for signs of growth. You want to keep the seed starting mix moist. The roots from the seeds need both water and air. Try to keep the mix a little moist, do not over saturate. A little water will do just fine. 

As soon as the seeds emerge and break through the soil, place them in pots. When transitioning your new found plant. Position them in or near a window where the sun shines through. Adding a consistent light source will produce better results. Keep in mind, sun rays will produce heat, so placing your plants in a room that has cool temperatures will give you sturdy seedlings when temperatures are 65-69 degrees. A cool dry place like a grow room or basement will help your plants grow. 

It’s time to fertilize. Once your plants have a couple sets of leaves, use a half strength fertilizer to give them the proper nutrients they need. When your seedlings produce two sets of leaves, that’s when you know it’s time to thin them out. You want to use one seedling per pot so choose the plants with the healthiest seedling to keep. You’ll want to snip the other seedlings right at the soil line and then throw those out.

Exercise:

Keep in mind, gardening does count as exercise. According to the University of Virginia’s Student HCF-Sustainable Garden Collaboration, gardening rates up there with other moderate to strenuous forms of exercise, like walking and bicycling…and like any other form of exercise, you have to be active for at least 30 minutes for it to be beneficial.

Gardening Requires Physical Endurance

  1. Build your endurance: Be mindful about your conditioning and make your return to gardening gradual. I like to set a timer the first few days so that I don’t overdo it and injure myself. Also, try to alternate between sitting, kneeling and standing tasks.
  2. Start light: Warm up with lighter gardening exercises first. For example, do a little weeding or light raking before tackling heavy tasks like digging in manure.
  3. Support your spine: Make an effort to keep your spine as neutral as possible, hinging at the hips and bending the knees if needed. This is particularly important for those with osteoporosis, because spinal flexion results in larger compressive forces on the vertebral bodies.
  4. Practice safe shoveling:
    • Keep your load close to your body and keep it as small as feasible.
    • Look for the most level, Tadasana-like starting positions you can manage (i.e. neutral spine, and feet parallel, hip distance apart).
    • Turn your feet with the loaded shovel rather than twisting at your spine.
    • Make sure that you stabilize your core, inhale, keep your abdominal muscles firm, then squeeze in from all directions… this creates a powerful inner brace for postural stability).

Those are just a few things to do to reorganizing your plans, while we transition from being very social to enjoying the surroundings of your homes. Besides a great workout, there are the other benefits like sunshine, fresh air and a bountiful harvest. Now your social companions are birds, bees, butterflies, squirrels, and countless other creatures. Have fun in the garden. Relax, enjoy, and grow something!

Leave me a reply below on your ideas for coping with staying busy during social distancing.

In need of garden supplies or a more professional soil testing approach contact us.

 

Leave a Reply