Image provided by Brenna Hassing
These last few months have had many Americans remaining at home with more time than anyone knows what to do with. And as spring blooms and the weather warms, people are itching to enjoy some fresh air. If you’ve never gardened before, you may find yourself wanting to plan something in the backyard. Right now may be the perfect opportunity to get into gardening.
“Gardening is something positive people can do, right now, that can make a big difference,” said Marjanna Hulet, Training Coordinator for ISU’s ITS department, CEWT instructor, and certified Idaho Master Gardener. “It's perfectly suited to social distancing, and also benefits from the added time we have on our hands. That is, we have time to water and weed regularly.”
Because of the large-scale threat COVID-19 presents, there has been a rise of interest in Victory Gardens. These gardens served as a way to lift people’s spirits during times of crisis. During WWI, American citizens were urged to begin Liberty Gardens to help further spread out rations. When it seemed like the U.S. was going to win the war, the name was changed to Victory Gardens instead.
Whatever name it held, the push to have American citizens grow their own herbs, fruits, and vegetables was adopted by many. By the end of WWII, 40% of America’s produce came from backyard gardens (Sweetser, 2020). With social distancing measures still in place throughout the country, gardening provides an alternative to going to the grocery store for fresh produce.
Plus, with COVID-19 upturning everyday life, gardening offers a calm, relaxing output that yields amazing results. “Watching the miracle of a small, hard seed grow into food to bless your family and friends never loses its appeal, in my opinion. The fact that I can plant a little seed and end up with an armful of zucchini in a couple months is amazing,” said Hulet.
Image provided by Brenna Hassing
With all of these things in mind, gardening might be the right passtime for you to pick up. To get started in your gardening ventures, here are a couple of important things to keep in mind:
When starting to garden, first and foremost, think about the things you would most like to have. Herbs are relatively easy to grow, as are some vegetables such as lettuce, peas, green beans, squash, and cucumbers. Vegetables require a lot of sunlight, so choose a location that gets plenty of sun.
Since Southeast Idaho has high plains and desert areas, be certain that you can water your garden easily. The region also has a relatively short growing season, which can be troublesome for things like tomatoes. If you want to grow these, purchase plants that were started inside and then move them outside after May 15, when the likelihood of frost is gone.
Watering and weeding daily are crucial to having a good garden. “Once the plants you want to be there start to grow, mulching around the plants (with grass clippings, for example) will help keep the weeds at bay. As your veggies get bigger, the weeds won't be able to grow as fast,” explained Hulet.
And last, but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even while practicing social distancing, your neighbors can be great sources of advice. In fact, Hulet recommends this for beginner gardeners.
“If you want to get better at gardening, look around your neighborhood. Chances are you have a neighbor who seems to be interested in gardening, and gardeners love to swap stories and advice,” she said. “All you have to do is wander by when they're out working in the yard and say, ‘Wow, what a nice garden you have,’ and they'll beam with pride. Then say, ‘Hey, I'm just starting out, and I had a question.’ You'll be off and running with specific advice for your gardening challenges.”
Idaho Landscapes and Gardens. (n.d.) Idaho’s growing regions. University of Idaho, http://web.cals.uidaho.edu/idahogardens/idahos-growing-regions/.
Sweetset, R. (2020). Victory gardens born out of coronavirus quarantine: How to plant a victory garden.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac, almanac.com, https://www.almanac.com/gardening/grow-victory-garden-coronavirus.