Tales from the Pandemic Garden
“Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you.” — proverb
Like a lot of people, I decided to start a pandemic garden this year. Since an internship was postponed, I had a lot more free time in the spring. I couldn’t do my usual fun activities, like going to the movies, so I decided: I’ll garden! After all, how hard can it be?
Now, I am not new to gardening. I have been weeding beds and pulling the sucker shoots off tomatoes since I was a kid. But I hadn’t attempted a large garden in years.
First, I started some plants from seed. Someone I know runs a small plant nursery every spring, so I was able to get more seedlings without going to a big store or gardening center.
I had carefully maintained a compost bin over the past year, so I didn’t need to buy fertilizer. (I also got a few mystery plants from the compost. Win-win.)
However, things got off to a rocky start. April and May had unseasonably chilly weather. It even snowed in May, which I had never seen before in my area. I had to keep my plants inside so they’d stay warm, but away from my cats so they’d stay alive.
I put my plants in clear plastic containers, taking them out for a little while to get some sun. But I left a marigold seedling on a windowsill for too long, and my cat had it for lunch.
When the weather was finally warm enough, I put the plants outside. But soon they wilted and their leaves turned white. I’d never seen anything like it. With a little Googling, I found out my plants had “sunscald” from too much sunlight —similar to how humans get sunburn. I had almost killed plants that live off sunlight by putting them in the sun.
The solution was to only put them outside for a few hours a day, gradually increasing their time in the sun. One plant died, but the rest recovered. When they were ready, I dug up my garden area and started planting.
Then, plants and flowers started disappearing. The culprits? The adorable rabbits running around my yard. They take shelter in a grove of trees, then come out to my nearby garden for a snack. I was unintentionally running a bunny bed & breakfast.
Next, I put up fencing to keep the rabbits out. However, fencing doesn’t do anything against squirrels and chipmunks, who pop in occasionally for the odd squash flower hors d’oeuvre or green tomato entrée. And they never leave a tip.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, we had a drought. A full month went by without rain. This was starting to seem like a set of Biblical curses. Still, I dutifully watered my garden every day.
Finally, it rained for about a week straight. Everything was lush and growing … for about a minute. I noticed some leaves were gone, and others were looking skeletal. Japanese beetles had arrived, attacking my peppers and sunflowers.
However, all of the pests seemed to avoid my onion plants. Nothing will touch them (yet, I suppose).
Despite the setbacks, I’ve been enjoying being so close to nature. Bees have been enjoying my wildflowers. A robin helpfully cleaned up my twigs, carrying them away in her beak to make a nest for her babies. And though they’re pests, the rabbits are pretty darn cute.
I’m not alone: gardening has been linked to positive health benefits. I’m getting some exercise and sunshine every day, and hopefully it’s helping my well-being.
I’m thankful that grocery stores have restocked, so I don’t need to rely on my garden for sustenance. I am still holding out hope that I’ll be able to harvest something this year.
But if not? Well, I can’t say I didn’t try.