Mowing, gardening and a positive attitude

Mowing season has begin in Eastern Ohio, where the grass will grow without any concern for the novel coronavirus pandemic that presently occupies all our minds.

Already, I have mowed lawns once and at this writing they are due for another cutting. Doing that outdoor task takes my mind to another chore I am eager to perform — gardening.

I truly enjoy growing some of my own food each year. Not only do I get the satisfaction of working with my hands in the soil to produce something that I can definitely use, but I also get to know where those foods are coming from and exactly what they were exposed to while growing. I do not use much in the way of chemicals — no weed killers or processed fertilizers. Occasionally I will sprinkle some powder around the perimeter that smells of garlic and is intended to discourage critters from helping themselves to my crops. That product helps, but an actual fence works much better.

This year, gardening seems more important than ever as we find our way through the COVID-19 outbreak. With sschools and some businesses closed and people urged to stay at home as much as possible, it makes sense to raise some food that you can obtain simply by walking ot into your own yard. Not only can that help you stay safe and well, but it can help you become even more healthy, You will be consuming foods that are good for you — low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals — and you willget some exercise while tending to your plants.

I have not yet gotten a good start on my garden this season, but I have taken some small steps. Several weeks ago I started cleaning up the fallen leaves tat littered our property(we have no trees, but somehow it seems like every leaf in Belmont blows into our yard). In the process, my husband reminded me that we have a leaf blower that can be used to mulch organic material as well.

Ever since he pointed that out, I have been busily grinding those leaves into small bits and spreading them on my garden plot. They have helped to keep spring weeds at bay by smothering them, and they should enrich the soil when we finally till them in.

Taking that step, though, has been challenging, since Mother Nature keeps dumping rain on us day after day. Even on days when she gives us a break, the ground is so saturated that tilling the soil would be very difficult Instead of loose, freshly turned earth, we would likely end up with gooey clumps of mud — not the ideal condition for planting.

I am hopeful, however, that the ground may dry enough to be tilled in the coming week.

If that happens, I am ready to go. I have a wide variety of seed packets that I purchased before the coronavirus arrived in our area. My brother also has started tomato and pepper plants that he intends to share (I hope), along with lots of onion sets.

Some of my first plantings will be leafy, green veggies that thrive in cooler soil. Crops such as spinach, lettuce and broccoli generally can be planted early in our climate.

The same is true for some root vegetables, such as radishes and beets.

Thankfully, my husband and I really enjoy eating our vegetables. We do so every single day, even when we don’t have fresh produce available right from our own garden.

When we do have plants growing and producing food, we like those products even better.

In addition to those first plantings, I hope to grow a few different kinds of squash and zucchini, carrots, peas, beans and plenty of other delicious foods. Along the way I will probably plant and tend to some flowers as well. Some, like marigolds, can discourage invaders such as deer.

But, in truth, I just enjoy growing and looking at them.

If you, too, would like to try your hand at gardening this year, I strongly recommend it. If you haven’t got the space to till a large rectangle in your lawn, try building raised beds or growing plants in containers instead.

There are plenty of online resources that can help you figure out what to do and when to do it. The Ohio Farm Bureau offers plenty of advice, as does the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Local extension offices also can help, as can sources such as the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

In addition to finding information you need online, you probably can order everything you need — from tools to soil to seeds or live plants — via the internet as well. That way, you can continue to protect yourself while making your property more productive.

As you consider whether to start a garden, you may also want to assess your property for other tasks you could perform while sheltering at home. Obviously, many people in the Ohio Valley must mow their grass on a regular — probably weekly — basis. Some people may not be able to perform that job themselves. If you know of someone in your neighborhood who may not be able to mow, consider helping them out by spending an hour or so tending to their lawn, too.

Other things you may want to look at around you home and neighborhood include landscaping that may have become overgrown, sidewalks that might need trimmed, weeds that have taken over remote areas or steep embankments, litter that has been scattered by others, water runoff that is causing damage and lawn furniture and ornaments that could use a fresh coat of paint or at least a good scrubbing.

Most of us may have little choice about staying at home right now, but there is no reason to allow ourselves to become bored or depressed. There is plenty we can do to improve our own situations and those of our neighbors.

Just because life has changed for most people in Ohio doesn’t mean ground to a halt. We must carry on, and what better way than to take steps to spruce up our surroundings, help others and grow our own foods?

If you need advice on getting started, I’ll be happy to o what I can to help. Or if you have your own gardening story, photos or advice to share, I’d love to hear from you, too. Please email me at jcompston@timesleaderonline.com to share your oint of view.


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