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Gardening in the time of Coronavirus

By Mary Lee

When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.

  - Minnie Aumonier

If fears of shortages, viruses, and loneliness are overwhelming you, being outside can be a mood lifter.  The blossoms and their scents, the tender buds on flowering trees, the beauty and smell of newly mown grass can lift your spirits on a solitary walk.  Box planters, like those on Belmont’s Main Street are brimming with color.  

Garden centers in Gaston and Mecklenburg counties are open and even busier than usual.  Customers consider the large open-air spaces safe places to be, then they can return home to shelter in place, but still have outdoor projects.  In response, some centers are taking extra precautions for the safety of their customers and their workers.  They’re disinfecting their counters frequently, wearing gloves, and keeping safe distances.

One large plant nursery in Charlotte, for instance, has closed their parking lots except for 22 spaces in order to limit the number of people there at any one time.  They’ve marked off 6-foot intervals at their checkout lanes to make certain customers maintain safe distances from each other.   

Parents desperate for home school projects are buying plants so that kids can work on a home garden.   A fun project for children would be making a teepee of a few bamboo poles and scarlet runner beans, which are started from seeds.  The beans are edible and the flowers are pretty.  

The reward of being out of doors has enticed even some brown-thumb gardeners to give it another try.   Planting in pots is a good way to start, using flowers or vegetables, or both.

If you’re thinking of going to a plant nursery, make your own safety measures:  wear gloves, stay six feet away from others, and if you must take your children, keep them by your side.  

Now, onto what to buy!  It’s prime time for perennials, but a bit too early for tender annuals.  For sun, plants like Allium, coreopsis, penstemon, coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, daylily (look for the repeat bloomers), Gaura, phlox, Shasta daisies, and artemisia are just a few easy, long-lasting perennials.  Salvias and sages, herbs like oregano, lavender, thyme, rosemary, catmint, pineapple sage (lovely scented leaves as well as bright blossoms) are a treat for the senses.   And don’t forget to check out flowering shrubs, groundcovers, and vines!  Choose pollinators; they are important and will reward you with hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. 

For shade, there are breathtaking astilbe, brunnera, coral bells, foxgloves, wood poppies, and toad lilies.  Hostas come in many different shades and sizes.  Ferns?  Definitely!

Seeds are an economic and rewarding possibility, some for now, some for later.  They can even be ordered online.  Annuals like zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds, and sweetpeas prefer to be planted as seeds because they don’t like being moved.  Be mindful of their growth habits.  There are huge differences in heights.  Vegetable seeds can be planted once the ground warms.  

It’s not the time to be borrowing gardening tools, so don’t forget those on your trip. Seek advice on soil amendments if you need it.   Be safe, but stay active and let’s get growing!