By Charlotte Canner
As we shelter at home, tending to plants and the earth provides hope and nourishment. Gardening, at any scale and level, can also create a sense of connection and add some much needed peace of mind and joy during these scary times. So whether you’re an expert or just starting out, are in an apartment with a few indoor plants, have a balcony, or are in a house with a yard, there are lots of things you can do for your plants (and yourself). Here are five ideas to get you gardening!
1. Bring on Spring
Spring is the perfect time to clear out the old and prepare for the new. Dust off and lightly shower your indoor plants so their leaves are ready to absorb the increased light. Repot indoor plants with fresh soil and move them to bigger pots if needed. Prune off dead branches and leaves, and deadhead flowers. Spring is also an ideal time to amend your garden beds and pots with compost. Gently work compost and fresh soil into beds, trying not to disturb the hard-working microbiology in the soil too much. Adding compost gives your plants a nutrient boost as they’re emerging from the dormant season.
2. Plant a Climate Victory Garden
The term “Victory Garden” originated during the first World War when governments in Europe and North America encouraged citizens to utilize their yards for food production in order to supplement their wartime food rations, lessen the demand on commercial production of food and materials needed for the troops, and to boost morale. The idea of victory gardens is having a resurgence as grocery shopping is becoming more difficult, anxiety of supply chain disruption grows, and evidence shows that home gardens help fight climate change.
Planting your own edibles can be a fun, satisfying project and if you’re currently home-schooling, teaching children to grow food is an invaluable lesson! Start small and expand as your space and environment allows. Grow microgreens on a sunny windowsill and herbs like basil and mint in a window box. Arugula and lettuces both grow quickly and can be grown in smaller pots and window boxes as well. For some fruits and veggies, you don’t even need seeds, you can grow several from their own scraps in a glass of water! Potatoes are super satisfying to plant as they grow easily in barrels and cloth bags, using cuttings from organic potatoes. If you have the space, raised beds allow for more variety and production. You can start seeds indoors (egg cartons work well as trays) in a sunny window or buy plant starts from a nursery or hardware store. If you have the energy for a bigger project, now would be the ideal time to rip out the front lawn and join the #Foodnotlawns movement.
3. Start a Compost bin
If you don’t have a compost pile, there are many ways to make compost. If you have little or no outdoor space, you can house a worm bin inside. The thousands of red wigglers will happily devour your raw food scraps and create a rich fertilizer for you to use on your plants. (Don’t worry the worms don’t smell; Compost City by our friend Rebecca Louie provides practical composting know-how for small space living). If you do have a yard, you can start a compost pile or a 3-bin hot compost system with yard and food waste. The compost you make will give your plants slowly-released nutrients, increase microbiology, improve soil texture, and increase the water retention of your soil. Compost is basically “gardener’s gold.” (If making it at home doesn’t work for you, nurseries and hardware stores also often sell bagged compost and worm castings).
4. Invite Winged-Friends Over
While we are social distancing from our human friends right now, we can invite over our beneficial insect friends. Encouraging butterflies, lady beetles, bees, parasitic wasps, syrphid flies and other beneficials into your garden will help keep pests under control while pollinating your fruit and flowers. Plant a “good bug tub” on your balcony or add plants to your garden beds that attract beneficials. Look for plants with small clusters of flowers like alyssum, yarrow, and buckwheat or daisy-like flowers such as sunflowers, cosmos, aster, and of course, daisies. The flowers provide nectar and pollen to the insects once the pests are gone.
5. Join the Community
Gardeners of all experience levels need help and advice sometimes. Fortunately the garden community has a wealth of knowledge and loves to share! Even in this time of quarantining, gardeners are getting creative with sharing through social media, webinars, and blogs. Check out some of Soil Centric’s Partners in Regeneration (currently on the beta of our Pathfinder Tool) on Instagram:
@FarmerRishi - Rishi Kumar is a small-scale farmer who also teaches an online Regenerative Gardening class for Kiss the Ground.
@soulfirefarm - Soul Fire Farm hosts “Ask a Sista Farmer” on Fridays answers your call-in questions about gardening, livestock, agroforestry, plant medicine and food preservation. Centered on voices of Black, Indigenous, People-of-Color, Trans, Disabled, Immigrant and Poor communities but everyone is welcome to watch and listen.
@edibleschoolyard - The Edible Schoolyard features engaging activities and lesson plans for at-home learning in the kitchen and the garden.
@apricotlanefarms - Apricot Lane provides pure inspiration for what an integrated, regenerative farm can be!
Please show us your how your garden is growing by tagging us on Instagram @soil_centric
Guest blogger Charlotte Canner took Kiss the Ground’s Soil Advocate Training course in 2018 launching her regenerative journey toward environmental education and advocacy. She works as an Integrated Pest Management Advocate in San Francisco and can be found on Instagram at @earth.ally.