It’s been an extraordinary few weeks packed with a lot of happenings in the world, from self- isolations from this pesky virus to lockdowns and curfews in different regions. These are trying times for sure, buts it’s not all doom and gloom, and there are even positives to be found in an enforced stay at home. Whether you’ve ever gotten your hands dirty in the garden or not, this is a golden opportunity to get into the garden and crack on with some much-needed horticultural therapy. Although it can be a bit difficult to know where to start, so we will be discussing some easy steps to ease you into gardening and reward you for your effort with colorful blooms, beautiful harvest, and delicious flavors.
Consider Your Options
Do you want to plant a vegetable garden? An herb garden? A flower garden? If you choose vegetables and/or herbs for their contributions to your dinner table, identify which ones your family will eat or is willing to try. If you want flowers for their flair, color, and fragrance, decide whether you want annuals that can survive most of the dry season but need to be replanted in the wet season or perennials that have a shorter bloom time but return year after year. You can mix any of the above, but it is important that you start small. 'It's better to succeed just a little than to fail grandly'.
Pick the correct spot
All vegetables and most flowers need about six hours of full sun each day. Spend a day in your chosen spot and watch how the sun moves across the space. It might receive more sun than you think. But don't despair if your lot is largely sunless; many plants tolerate shade. Pick a relatively flat spot for your garden because it’s more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to deal with a sloping garden. You should also check for windbreaks (e.g., your house or your neighbor’s house) that will keep plants from being harmed by strong winds. And put the garden where you can't ignore its pleas for attention—outside the back door, beside the house or by the window you gaze through to check how sunny/cloudy the day is.
Clear the Ground
Clear the land of any garbage and litter. Remove items like cans, paper and other things that you don't want to get mixed into your soil. Pull out any hard vegetation like small bushes or large plants with branches. These need to be removed because they are wood and difficult to break down like other plants.
Improve the soil
The more fertile and friable the soil, the better your vegetables will grow. The same holds for other plants. Invariably, residential soil needs a boost, especially in new construction where the topsoil may have been stripped away. Your soil may be excessively wet, poor and infertile, or too acidic or alkaline. The solution is often simple: Add organic matter. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost, decayed leaves, dry grass clippings, or old manure to the soil when you dig or till a new bed. If you decide not to dig or are working with an established bed, leave the organic matter on the surface where it will eventually rot into humus. Earthworms will do most of the work of mixing humus in with the subsoil.
Work the soil
working the soil is essential to preparing new beds for sowing or planting because it allows roots to penetrate the soil more easily to access water and nutrients. There are two methods: tilling and digging.
Tilling consists of cultivating the soil with a mechanical device such as a rototiller. This is a good method when you need to incorporate large amounts of amendments. However, it can also disturb microorganisms and earthworms. So it’s better to do too little than too much. Excessive tilling, working soil when it’s too wet or dry, damages soil structure and plant roots.
Digging is more practical for preparing small beds. Dig only when the soil is moist enough to form a loose ball in your fist but dry enough to fall apart when you drop it. Use a sharp spade or spading fork to gently turn the top 8 to 12 inches of soil, mixing in the organic matter at the same time.
Pick your plant
Some people pore over catalogs for months; others head to the seed shop or market and buy what wows them. Either method works as long as you choose plants adapted to your climate, soil, and sunlight. You can even surf the Internet for plants to purchase. Here are a few easy-to-grow plants for beginners:
Plant your pick
Some plants, such as lettuce and okro, are easy to grow from seed. You can sow them directly in the garden. Be sure to gather enough information about when to plant, how deep to plant, and how far apart to plant the seeds.
Another easy method is to buy young plants, called set plants or transplants. Just dig a hole and plunk them in the ground.
Water at the right time
Seedlings should never dry out, so water daily while they are small. Taper off as the plants get larger. New transplants also need frequent watering every other day or so until their roots become established. After that, how often you need to water depends on your soil, how humid your climate is, and how often it rains. Plants are begging for water when they wilt slightly in the heat of the day. Water slowly and deeply, so the water soaks in instead of running off into the street and to minimize evaporation, water in the early morning.
Protect your garden with mulch
To help keep weeds out and moisture in, cover the soil with a couple of inches of mulch. You won’t have to water as often, and by preventing sunlight from hitting the soil, you’ll prevent weed seeds from germinating. Choose from a wide variety of mulches (each with its own benefits), ranging from shredded bark to river rock. If you use an organic mulch, such as bark, compost, or cocoa bean shells (which smell good, by the way), it will nourish the soil as it decomposes. For a vegetable garden choose a mulch that decomposes in a few months.
Keep it up
Your garden is on its way. Keep watering when needed, and pull weeds before they get big. Fertilize with a dry fertilizer about halfway through the season. If you use a liquid fertilizer, fertilize every month or so. And remember to stop and smell the—well, whatever you grow. BTW If you enriched the soil with compost before you planted, you may not need to do any additional fertilizing. Then again, some vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, corn) are heavy feeders and may need a quick-release fertilizer every three to four weeks.
So there’s a start. Yes, you can garden your way through the virus crisis. Any period of challenge or adversity may be turned around by a positive mindset. Seize the chance to create a lasting legacy in your garden. Give something back to Mother Nature through what you grow, and plan more for yourself to eat and enjoy too.
How to start a new garden [Retrieved from https://commonsensehome.com/start-a-garden/ on 8th April 2020]
Gardenening during lockdowns [Retreived from https://www.growveg.com/guides/lockdown-gardening-through-the-coronavirus-crisis/ on 9th April 2020]