Even in isolation, you can still enjoy plants.


Greetings from Grumpy’s garden! Let me first address the elephant-in-the-room by giving you an update on my health. I am fine (as I hope are you). When you’re as pugnacious as I am, self-isolation isn’t a big deal, as people avoid me naturally.

Like you, I am doing my best to follow CDC guidelines and avoid falling victim to or spreading the virus. And I want to give a big shout-out to my fellow Alabamians for their conduct during this crisis. A few days ago, I was swept up in the panic-buying maelstrom at my local Costco, where check-out lines stretched from the cash registers to the back of the store and then made U-turns. (Alabama should not need toilet paper for a month.) It took well over an hour to check out, but not once did I hear a raised voice. No scuffles, no fighting over sanitizer, no cutting in line. Everyone showed patience, courtesy, empathy, and good humor. I hope your experience was similar.

This pestilence couldn’t have come at a worse time for gardeners and garden centers. Spring is upon us, our favorite time of year, the season for planting. So how can we still enjoy our plants when the experts say don’t get close to other people? Grumpy has some ideas.

  1. Have a cocktail on the porch. Look at all the trees budding out and flowers blooming. Listen to the birds singing and fill that feeder! Fresh air and sunshine are bad for the virus, but good for you. During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, doctors found that patients who were treated outside on pleasant days recovered more quickly. Getting outside is good for your mental health too.
  2. Don’t stop going to your local garden centers! Spring is a make-it-or-break-it season for them. These small businesses are important members of the community. I’m sure they’re coming up with ways to get you plants and supplies safely. Find out. Give them a call. If we don’t support them now, many may close for good.
  3. Take time to dig the weeds out of your lawn and garden beds. Most people find this such an odious task that I guarantee no one will offer to help. Self-distancing at its finest!
  4. Now is a good time to plant and transplant trees, shrubs, and perennials before it gets hot. Wait until after your last spring frost date to plant summer annuals, though.
  5. Start annual and vegetable seeds indoors. Waiting for them to sprout will give you something else to do beside binge-watch The Hallmark Channel.
  6. Clean out and straighten up your garden storage area. You’ll find things you never knew were there. I have six different trowels, five shovels, eight pruning shears, eight boxes of different organic fertilizer, unopened bottles of spinosad and liquid copper, three sprinklers, three opened bags of bird seed, and the fossilized forearm of a T. rex.
  7. Use a mulching mower to run over any tree leaves on your lawn that you’re still ignoring and turn them into organic matter to feed the grass. Now is also a good time in the South to mow your lawn at 1-1/2 inches to remove dead grass blades and speed green-up.
  8. Wipe down the leaves of houseplants to remove dust and dirt that accumulated during the winter. As houseplants begin new growth with the lengthening days, give them a drink of liquid fertilizer. And if you need to repot, do so now.
  9. Harvest daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and other spring bulbs now and bring them indoors to cheer up things and remind you that next spring will be brighter.
  10. Have another cocktail. Hydration is essential during these perilous times.