Hello, fellow Greenbelters, from my near-quarantined self to yours. I’ve been moved by the many examples I’ve seen online and in the News Review of Greenbelters finding new ways to connect, to help, and to inspire people in our community.
What can Greenbelt Online do to help? One idea we’re pursuing is to provide a place here for Greenbelters to say more about their experiences during the pandemic, sharing their photos, videos, something virtual they’re enjoying online, and so on.
So there’s a new category here on the blog – Greenbelters and the Pandemic – and this is the first first-person Greenbelter pandemic story, of which we hope to see many more.
Whenever I’m asked how I’m “holding up,” I take the opportunity to sing the virtues of gardening, especially in spring. Especially THIS spring, thanks to the stunning weather we’ve been having and the once-a-century “opportunity,” shall we say, to spend lots of time doing it. Gardening is what’s keeping me (relatively) sane these days.
Gardeners aren’t surprised at all by the surge in seed sales or the other signs of increased interest in gardening, especially growing food. My own tiny GHI garden is strictly for beauty and benefits to the environment, which is a more than enough to make me excited to get up in the morning with gardening tasks to tackle. And every time, I’m grateful that I found my passion in something I can still do in these hard times. What if my favorite thing in the world was playing team sports or watching them? I feel for them, and hope they find their way to gardening during this time of deprivation.
Here are the spring gardening tasks that have been good not just for my garden but for my mental and physical health: clean-up, weeding, mulching, pruning, re-arranging some of my perennials, and excitedly planting several new shrubs and vines (four of the native, evergreen Crossvine.)
How to Learn and Get Inspired Online
- Some highly regarded, super-knowledgeable gardening experts online are: Joe l’Lampl (who’s also on PBS with his show “Growing a Greener World”), Margaret Roach (A Way to Garden blog and podcast), and the Maryland Home and Garden Information Center from the University of Maryland, one of the nation’s top Extension universities.
- Guide to GHI Living on this site includes 16 links for gardens and plant ideas not JUST for members of Greenbelt Homes Inc. but appropriate for small to mid-size yards in our region.
- How to Prune your Overgrown Hedges or other Problem Shrubs – is advice from an expert hired by Greenbelt Online. GHI members, if you’re interested in applying what we learned from her in YOUR garden, on YOUR own shrubs, you can arrange some one-on-one advice by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The most local advice of all is your gardening neighbors, and we have Facebook groups for that – “Gardening in Greenbelt, Maryland” and “DC Gardeners.” There you can ask for plant IDs or design advice or just show us your successes.
- GoodGardeningVideos.org is a nonprofit I co-created with garden writers and horticulturists to curate gardening on YouTube (because gardening information online may be helpful but also may misinform or simply overwhelm new gardeners). I recommend the video collection “Best-for-Spring, (lawn, planting, pruning, starting vegetables, etc) or our Favorite YouTubers for Growing Food, (one of which is U.Maryland), then dig deep into those channels. Or to design ideas for your garden, tour real gardens or gardens by designers.
How to Get Plants and Supplies
- When I buy plants I avoid the Big Boxes because 1) I prefer the better selection and care at independent garden centers, and 2), these days, the lines at Home Depot are historic, almost election-day levels! For tools or supplies I would order online for delivery, though, and have.
- Among the independents, Behnkes is gone (and boy, are they ever glad they closed before this nightmare for even essential businesses) and I’ve surveyed the alternatives in this year-old post that still gets a lot of traffic – “After Behnkes, Wehre to Buy Plants.”
- Fortunately for garden centers and their customers, they’ve been declared essential (because what they sell produces food and provides upkeep for grounds), but there’s no guarantee they’re all open for business. I know that Patuxent Nursery and American Plant are open only for delivery and curbside pick-up. Homestead Gardens provides those plus their regular in-store shopping. (Something I wrote about, urging changes.)
- Many gardeners are turning this year to online sources of plants and seeds. I’ve been happy with Park Seed and know of happy customers of mail order companies like Annie’s Annuals and Plant Delights, but here are 30 recommended mail order sources you can read about and try.
- To acquire that essential gardening ingredient – a good mulch – Greenbelters have two good choices, both local and free. Behind the GHI offices on Hamilton Place (available to anyone during business hours) is this large pile of what’s called “arborist’s wood chips,” which means it’s not uniformly chopped-up wood but includes all parts of trees, and it’s the type being heralded by horticulturists as the very best. Also it looks good and is much longer lasting than most mulches. At the north end of Northway there’s the city’s mountain of mulch of a different type – it’s leafmold, which is what chopped-up leaves become after they’ve decomposed for a while.
Happy Gardening, Greenbelters
The benefits of gardening – physically, mentally, spiritually – are well documented, but they’re greater than ever now. To be in nature and get exercise while being productive and safe – what’s not to like about gardening?