Spring has sprung and as we continue to physical distance, gardening is a perfect way to get fresh air, exercise, improve your mental health, and connect with nature.

Whether you have a small apartment balcony or a sprawling yard, you can add green to any space. Start by planning a course of action, and with these tips, you can have your garden flourishing in no time.

  1. Clean up your yard: Before you start planning, start preparing your yard for a successful garden by raking up leaves, picking up branches, and cleaning up from the winter elements (depending on where you live). Be cautious of animal nests as several species may burrow in leaf matter. While some communities have already made changes to recycling regulations, several are also suspending yard waste until further notice. To avoid adding extra trash, consider postponing any plans to collect and throw away yard debris, such as leaves or dead grass. If you do clean up your yard, consider starting a compost pile or bag up and store the debris until your local hauler is collecting again. When cleaning up your yard, remember that old gardening hoses are not recyclable and must be discarded appropriately.
  1. Compost: Compost closes the loop. It increases organic matter in the soil to help retain soil moisture and supporting the healthy growth of plants, trees, and vegetable crops. There are several options available for purchase online for both indoor and outdoor compost bins. You can even start your composting experience with a water bottle. Click here for a tutorial on composting in a bottle.
  1. Reuse: Certain types of organic kitchen waste, like coffee grounds, can add important nutrients that your soil needs. Mixing coffee grounds into your soil can balance the alkalinity of your soil, deter pests such as slugs and snails, and grounds are a nice treat for earthworms. Banana peels are a great source of potassium to help produce healthy, beautiful roses. Cut up the peels and put them around the base of your plant – there is no need to even compost them first. Eggshells can also be washed and crushed to provide a source of calcium for roses – just mix slightly into the dirt or they can also be added to compost for a calcium boost. With increased online orders and some recycling collection systems overloaded or suspended, use corrugated cardboard to help combat weeds – just lay them over the soil and cover with mulch. The practice not only helps keep the weeds out but also helps keep moisture in the soil.
  1. Test your soil: It is helpful to know the soil type, the quality, and the pH balance of your soil. A simple test can help you determine which plants might be best supported in your soil type. The type of soil you have, and your geography, will determine which native species will thrive in your location and can help determine which plants will be able to withstand weather patterns common to your region.
  1. Start small: If you don’t have a lot of gardening experience or live in an urban environment without a lot of space, gardening can seem like a daunting or impossible task. But by starting small and planting in a container, making a window box with herbs, or making a vertical garden on your balcony, you can easily add green to any space. No matter the size, ensure your plants will be provided sunlight throughout the day. If you’re just getting started, call your local nursery or garden center (note: some may be closed) to learn how to “plant right” by putting the right plant in the right place at the right time.
  1. Plant native species: Native species, including trees, shrubs, and wildflowers, are critical to enhancing biodiversity, rebuilding ecosystems, and supporting pollinator health. For instance, native trees not only benefit local wildlife, but they also help moderate ground temperature and remove carbon dioxide from the air. Native species are hardy, low maintenance, and require less water than other species, as well as to adapt well to the growing conditions necessary to thrive in various climates and are more able to withstand the weather patterns that are unique to each region. Be sure to look up native species for your area and follow the USDA zone guidelines. Click here to learn more about native planting and to find your local Native Plant Society.
  1. Grow your own food: Now is the perfect time to consider planting fruits and vegetables at home. Growing food at home not only could help you skip some trips to the grocery store, but it could also provide some much-needed stress relief. If starting from seeds, keep in mind that the seeds do not need to be organic; it is all about the growing technique.

Green spaces restore our communities, helping to make them more environmentally healthy, socially connected, and economically sound. In addition to adding vibrant landscapes, gardens help the environment in many ways by sequestering carbon, reducing pollution, and reducing erosion. Gardening is also a healthy activity for the body from burning calories to improving mental health and offers the opportunity to connect with nature in a safe way during COVID-19. If you participate in community gardens, be sure to check locally for specific guidelines.

Please note: COVID-19 is reported to live on surfaces for an extended period of time, according to a recent study:

  • As an aerosol, for up to 3 hours (e.g. sneezing, coughing, etc.)
  • Clothing – from several hours up to a day
  • Up to 4 hours on copper
  • Up to 24 hours on cardboard
  • Up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel
  • Up to 4 days on glass surfaces like a smartphone

General health and safety:

  1. Exercise physical distancing and wear a mask when required to interact with others.
  2. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and before eating or preparing food. (CDC)
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. (CDC)
Download this tip sheet as a PDF here. Download

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