Keep creating: Gardening during COVID-19

Learn about gardening from people just like you as well as the masters

VANCOUVER — With so many of us stuck at home with the widespread closures due to the coronavirus, we here at ClarkCountyToday.com wanted to offer up some things you could do with that time at home. 

First on the list: gardening. We had the pleasure of spending time with a couple of amatuer gardeners here in Vancouver. They shared their tips and tricks as well as some encouragement for finding creativity in adversity. 

Growing many vegetables from starters can be very easy if they are given the right soil and plenty of water. Photo by Bailey Granneman
Growing many vegetables from starters can be very easy if they are given the right soil and plenty of water. Photo by Bailey Granneman

We also had the privilege to talk to a master gardener from the Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV) Master Gardener Program at the Heritage Farm in Hazel Dell.

Let’s start sewing. 

Right now, so many people are planting their own gardens for the first time. It only takes a trip to Wilco or any seed section to see people are buying and stocking as much as they can. 

Maybe you are sitting at home with some seeds and the motivation due to boredom to go plant a garden; where should you start? 

“I think the one thing that’s really important when you go to garden or plant something is to actually identify what you like, especially when it comes to vegetables or any kind of food,” said Darci Andrews, a Vancouver resident who’s been gardening for several years now. “Ask your family, ‘Hey, do you like peas? Do you like beans? Do you like tomatoes?’ All of those things can actually be grown in really small spaces, and they can be grown vertically.”

Other people said they found a great first step was to begin the process inside. Growing things in small containers in your house and then transplanting (pun intended) outside to the garden, can be much easier that simply throwing seeds down.

“One thing I would definitely recommend is to start small. If you can start growing something in your house and then take it outside, do that. Or if you have a small space just start with that small space,” said Bailey Granneman, a Vancouver resident who just started gardening last year, and happens to also be this reporter’s better half. “There really is that feeling of accomplishment when you’re gardening.”

Seed shelves shown here at a Vancouver Wilco are hit and miss. The day these photos were taken the shelves had just been restocked. Photos by Jacob Granneman
Seed shelves shown here at a Vancouver Wilco are hit and miss. The day these photos were taken the shelves had just been restocked. Photos by Jacob Granneman

Beware though, it is most likely too early in the season to plant many things. Darci and Bailey pointed this out, and explained that things like peas and flowers are good now, as is simply mapping out what your garden will look like.

You can follow this link to some PDFs that will explain more about when to plant what and also what to plant where. Karen Palmer works with the WSUV Master Gardener Program at the Heritage Farm and is herself, a master gardener. 

Karen mentioned onions, peas and many brassicas like spinach and chard as great to plant right now. She then explained many of the “dos and don’ts’’ of starting a garden in the spring. Top of the list is planting too early. 

“It’s not just daytime temperatures you need to worry about, it’s nighttime temperatures,” Karen said. “Something like a pepper start, if you put them out too early and it’s too cold at night, or if the soil is also really cold, that plant is gonna suffer. It’s not going to grow. It’s going to just sit there and pout and then you know, it could die.”

Karen explained that when many of us rush to plant things the first time the sun returns, the distinctly unpredictable Pacific Northwest weather will turn back to heavy rain or a cold snap and cause many gardens to fail to flourish.

“One of the best things you can be doing now particularly since we have a little stretch of dry weather is preparing your garden beds,” Karen said. “I always see people buying tomato plants way too early, and I always wonder what they’re doing with them. If you have an area where you’re going to be putting in a warm season crop like tomatoes or peppers or eggplants, it’s really good to warm up the soil. If you have any black plastic laying around, after you get your garden bed kind of weeded and cleared off, just put the plastic down. That will really help prevent any new weeds from starting and also warm up your soil.” 

Garden boxes can be helpful because they better separate plants by family. Check out this PDF of the common plant families. Photo by Bailey Granneman
Garden boxes can be helpful because they better separate plants by family. Check out this PDF of the common plant families. Photo by Bailey Granneman

The WSUV Master Gardener Program also now has a virtual answer clinic that is live. To get the answers to your specific gardening questions during COVID-19 you can reach out directly via email at mganswerclinic@clark.wa.gov

You can also call (564) 397 5711 on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Do yourself a favor, grow something easy to begin with,” Darci said. “Don’t try and grow something really complex, right off the get go. For instance, grow some beans rather than peppers. If you’re starting from seed, beans from seed are a lot easier to grow.” 

Karen also stressed that preparation makes for much better gardening in the long run. Everything from prepping tools, to setting up irrigation, to making sure you actually have the correct seeds, can make or break a garden. 

She explained that even if you are unable to go to the stores because of health risk or because your store is simply sold out, seed providers sell online and are still well stocked.

“One of the best things you can do is planning out where you’re going to plant things,” Karen said. “You want to put plants in the same family, and plant them together in the same area of the garden, so that the following year you can rotate that to a different part of the garden. The reason for that is that pests and diseases are pretty much isolated to certain families. So the same diseases that affect tomatoes, for instance, won’t bother a lettuce plant.”

Garden boxes are available pre-made or you can easily assemble them from pre-cut boards at The Home Depot or Lowes. Photo by Bailey Granneman
Garden boxes are available pre-made or you can easily assemble them from pre-cut boards at The Home Depot or Lowes. Photo by Bailey Granneman

Ultimately, many people said they are simply gardening because it is something to do right now. Beyond the simply time-occupying task element, there has been shown to be true health benefits to gardening, including reduced stress and anxiety.

“I was really excited when I finally had the perfect plan for what my garden would look like,” Bailey said. “It gives me purpose, it gives me a feeling of accomplishment with my day when I’m able to wake up, get dressed, because we have pretty see through fences and I don’t want my neighbor seeing me in my PJs. To get outside and garden and be in the fresh air, that’s keeping me from slipping back into depression at times, it’s keeping me excited. It’s helping me bring life into my own life in a way to, to spark interest and to spark this excitement.”

We at ClarkCountyToday.com hope this information and inspiration inspires you to be creative during COVID-19. Be sure to check out the links and free resources available from the Master Gardeners. And of course, keep creating. 

“There’s almost a promise to it that you’re looking down the road for a future and that’s beautiful. We all want that right now. We all want to look past COVID-19 and know that there was something beyond this,” Darci said. “You start with a seed and if you think about what a seed is, really a seed is simply hope and where there’s hope there’s life.”

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About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a graduate of WSU Pullman’s Edward R. Murrow College where he studied journalism and media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and abroad in Argentina. He has won a regional Emmy and Mark of Excellence award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his film work. His passions range from sharing the love of Jesus, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife and son in Vancouver, WA. Proverbs 16:3

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