By: Ana Toepel and Deborah Fleischer
The idea of “planting seeds” right now has multiple meanings. On the home front, many of us are planting gardens. Not only is it therapeutic to get our hands dirty and spend time outside, but there is a practical component, as it means less trips to the store. One silver lining of the COVID-19 crisis is that people seem to be remembering and discovering the benefits of growing a garden. There is a resurgence of victory gardens–the small private and public gardens that sprouted up during World War I and World War II as a response to the pressure on the food supply brought on by war efforts.
Offerings of webinars, videos, and Facebook pages on growing food are sprouting up every day. These modern gardens are based on people wanting to be resilient and self-reliant.
As noted in a San Francisco Chronicle article “A comeback for victory gardens amid Bay Area coronavirus shutdown,” there’s been a boom in urbanites and suburbanites nationwide buying vegetable seeds and seedlings. Seed retailers across the country are reporting tenfold increases in their business, and gardening nonprofits have seen a big uptick in interest in edible gardens—with the push being driven in part by worries about the ongoing integrity of the food system and economic concerns.
Novella Carpenter, head of the urban agriculture program at the University of San Francisco, says in the article that now there is an urgency to raise food. “I used to tell my students if the apocalypse hits, meet me in the garden. We don’t know what’s going to happen, how long this is going to last, but, in the meantime, it can be something to do that feels positive, like a way of taking some portion of control back.”
Five Reasons to Get Started on Your Garden Today
With more time at home these days, you might consider joining this current movement of backyard gardeners and planting something of your own. An article in Euro News names gardening the “go-to quarantine activity.” If you’re in need of motivation to do it, here are five reasons to plant a pandemic victory garden:
#1- It’s a great kid-friendly family activity. Wondering how to keep the kids busy? Not sure how to get in some science lessons? Gardening’s the perfect solution. All ages can participate in some way.
#2- It will get you outside for some exercise and fresh air. You may not be able to get away for outdoor adventures, but gardening provides beneficial physical activity right in your own backyard.
#3- You can garden anywhere in whatever space you have available. If you don’t have a yard, it could be a balcony, patio, rooftop, fence, wall or windowsill. Many garden supply stores are offering curbside pickup if you order ahead of time online or over the phone.
#4- Gardening has mental health benefits; it can enhance your mood and lower stress. You will be able to “forest bathe” without having to go to the forest.
#5- May is the perfect time in the Bay Area to a plant a variety of summer vegetables. The useful Bay Area Planting Calendar will tell you which specific plants are best to grow each month.
Planting Seeds as metaphor
If you don’t have the inclination to plant a real garden, think about what seeds you want to plant in your life right now. Like a garden, if you don’t prepare the soil and plant the seeds or seedlings, you won’t bring new things into your life. With so much uncertainty, I’m doing my best to be open to surprises and try new things–be it growing artichokes or trying a new communication form like non-violent communication (NVC). Like gardening, I conclude with a few lessons learned that seem to apply to the garden of our lives:
Have Patience: You can’t force a seed to grow faster and you can’t force others to do something they are not ready for. We get to have patience and wait.
Surrender to the Unknown and Let go of Control: A key personal challenge for me these days is having to surrender to the unknown and let go of control. We can plant our intentions and ideas, but then we have to have some faith that like every garden, some seeds will thrive and others won’t. Some plants will perish to a persistent gopher. Some good intentions won’t come to fruition. But in the end, there is resilience, lessons learned, new programs and initiatives, and the satisfaction of a salad picked fresh from the garden.
Resources to Support You
- Garden for the Environment is offering online garden education while their in-person programs are on hiatus.
- “Building Your Pandemic Victory Garden” is a practical webinar hosted by Sebastopol’s Permaculture Skills Center.
- UC Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco has a website full of gardening resources, including the California Garden Web.
- This article in The Mercury News has helpful tips on vegetable gardening in containers.
- “How to Regrow Vegetable Scraps” explains how you can use the veggie scraps in your kitchen to grow new plants you can add to your garden.
- How-to resources listed on the Gardening Channel.