We can’t be experts in everything and the good new is that gardening happens to be one
of the kindest learning curves you’ll ever encounter. Whether you have twenty acres or nothing more than a window, there’s something you can grow.
While we have been reassured that our supply lines of food are fully operational, this current experience has served as a reminder that we have become too reliant on outside sources for everything we need. Our family’s weekly trip to the grocery store has become just one of the many odd new ways we live our lives. A white board in the living room serves as the ongoing grocery list. Everyone can add what they need to the list throughout the week. I make the order online each Thursday or Friday. Saturday or Sunday we drive to the store, pop the trunk, wait for the attendant to fill the trunk with our groceries and then go home. When we get home, we find out what we got. Each week there are at least two or three items that are out of stock. Yeast, baking soda, rice, and of course toilet paper, all a hit or miss. Now, we can’t grow baking soda or toilet paper, but we can grow just about every vegetable and herb a grocery store can offer.
If you don’t have yard space for a typical garden, you can grow a container garden. While store bought pots are convenient, nearly any container can be used for growing. Make sure the container has drainage holes and if using it inside put a plate or pan underneath to catch excess water. If you don’t have the ability to purchase potting soil you can use any soil, however if it is high in clay content try to mix in some compost. This will help the soil become loamy and will provide extra nutrients for the plants. Egg shells, used coffee grounds, and fruit and vegetable skins make fantastic compost. Even paper towel that has no chemicals or cleaners on it can be composted.
You can also still garden in the yard even if you don’t have access to a garden tiller. By planning ahead, you can create a no-till garden for next year, but in the meantime, there are still some ways to get growing. Garden tillers didn’t become available until the late 1930’s. Sure, they used horses to till previous to that and while most of us don’t have a horse, we (or a neighbor) likely has a shovel and a rake. Its quite a bit of work, but it will do the job! Get creative, make a plan, and have some fun!
Its not too late, but it could be too early-
They old saying is that you should plant potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day. Here in Missouri, mid-March is still a good time for potatoes, although our soil is often too wet for planting. It is best to plant them in moist soil and dry soil can be watered for a few days before planting. If you haven’t planted them yet and live in a zone where it is recommended to plant them in early spring, that’s okay! Go ahead and get them in now. It might not be optimal, but there’s a good chance you’ll still get a few spuds this summer. Even if you only get small potatoes, they are great in soups and stews or can be saved for starts for next years garden. If you live in a northern state, a quick internet search will provide several results of recommend times for planting.
Depending on which hardiness zone you live in, each garden vegetable has a specific cold hardiness. Seed packets usually have a guide of when to plant them based on your zone. If in doubt about the weather, it is worth it to wait a week or two before planting anything that cannot handle a freeze. For most of the Midwest, right now is a great time to plant parsley, beets, carrots, greens, peas, spinach, onions and radishes from seed and cabbage, Brussel sprouts and broccoli plants. Inside under a light or in a window (preferably south or west facing) you can start tomatoes and peppers from seed. Wait until the soil temperature has warmed into the 60*’s before planting more tender vegetables such as corn and cucumbers.
Getting seeds and supplies-
Last year’s seeds could still be viable. You can plant three or four in a small pot for a test run to make sure. I do this with saved seeds as well. For old seeds you might see a reduced germination rate, but even one out of four bean seeds sprouting can still produce quite a few beans!
Garden share! Contact friends, family and neighbors. You can share seeds, garden tools and even the produce to come. Pick a spot for dropping off and picking up supplies to ensure everyone will still be able to practice safe distancing. You can wipe down anything (but the seeds themselves) with a cotton ball and alcohol before using and returning. This is also a great opportunity to create a local food sharing economy. One household can grow greens and tomatoes, while another grows herbs and another raises chickens for eggs. By sharing everyone gets more of the harvest.
For too long we have lived in a bit of a bubble, always being caught off guard and unprepared for any kind of interruption to business as usual. I’m not suggesting we all try to go off grid by any means, on the same hand being a little more self-reliant only makes sense right now. Growing some of our own food provides physical exercise, is a stress reducer, saves money and results in nutrient rich food.
“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows” ~Spanish Proverb
Now get to growing!
Audrey L Elder