Good to Grow: A gardener’s take on social distancing

Take photos of the daffodils and hyacinths in your garden now so you’ll know where to plant more bulbs in the fall. photo

Social distancing. Sounds like a way to spend more time in the garden to me, and I’m all in.

When I worry and fret, the garden and projects that get my mind and body outdoors are my go-to coping mechanisms. Well, that plus chocolate and carbs, but that’s a whole other column.

Despite the chaos in the world, it’s springtime. March 19 was the official start to the season of new buds, fresh mulch and green leaves. Daylight Saving Time has given us an extra hour of evening light. This is just what I needed!

One of my first projects will be to place netting on tender shrubs and plants that will be tempting treats to the deer. I counted a herd of 10 out back last week. Without protection from netting or sprays, the new young shoots will disappear overnight.

I have also taken photos to remind me where to plant more daffodil and hyacinth bulbs in the fall.

It’s time to set out onions. I love having fresh green onions. They are easy to grow and will give me a quick boost of confidence to begin the growing season.

It’s also time to plant spinach, radish and leek seeds. Don’t worry if your garden space is limited, these springtime crops work well in containers. And, come on, who doesn’t love the idea of picking fresh lettuce for a salad or sandwich.

Since we are talking about distance, lettuce seeds should be planted 10 to 12 inches apart. Same for radishes. I must admit, I am not good at keeping this distance between the seeds; I plant them much closer. Try planting them about an inch deep, then — with a little water and sun — you should be harvesting in about four weeks.

I so rarely talk about planting lettuce that I don’t mention to stagger the planting times. I try to sow a row every week throughout the spring. This means it won’t all be ready to pick at once, and I will have plenty to eat and share for a longer period of time.

Thinking about growing asparagus? Now’s the time to get serious.

Pick a sunny spot and be patient. Growing asparagus from seed will mean waiting several seasons (maybe three years) to harvest stalks.

I have one lonely plant that has survived, but it doesn’t get enough sunlight and has never given me a reward for all the years of care.

As the store shelves go empty, I am thankful for the garden that filled my freezer and canning cupboard.

Of course I need to shop, but I enjoy knowing that last year’s garden is paying it forward and giving me healthy choices when I need them most. I will remember that when I plant this year and then spend hours prepping, freezing and canning during the summer.

I am also using this time at home to repot a few houseplants. I have added potting soil and fertilizer to the tops of most of my pots. It seems that over the winter the soil has disappeared. The plants are getting a good inspection and I’m removing weak leaves — basically, getting them ready to survive the neglect that will come as the weather warms and I spend more time outside.

I am trying my luck growing orchids. I have a new potting medium and am transitioning them to be, well, I guess you would say hydroponic. I’m taking the advice of a trusted friend and orchid expert and using clay pebbles. I’m learning as I go and hoping this gives me healthy plants and more of those lovely orchid blooms.

I’ve also begun to make a list of what I will add to my garden this year, tagging seed catalogs. I’m talking with garden centers about upcoming classes and new arrivals. When I nestle in my chair with a blanket and the pup on my lap, I have been reading a few pages of “Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History” by Bill Laws. It’s fascinating.

There is much uncertainty ahead in the coming weeks and these are unprecedented times, but I know that you will find me in the garden with my hands in the soil.