If you were like most of us Washingtonians and followed the Governor’s recent recommendations, you were in some state of social isolation, whether you termed it social distancing, self-quarantined or plain old hunkering-down. As I am a garden designer who works from a home office, this distancing thing is a normal part of life. But, for the ball of energy to whom I’m married, Seattle’s slow-down has her more than just a little bored. But, then, the sun began to shine and my little gardener’s dream was realized: forced to stay home and work in the yard. Life could be worse.
Being alone in your yard or on a condominium balcony, tending plants that are pushing through the soil, doing a bit of spring clean-up or imaging a new floral vignette in one corner of your habitat is a positive way to make use of this down time. ‘Distancing’ doesn’t mean you are forced to remain indoors, just widely spaced from others. So, go outdoors and let the cool, fresh air wash over you, the sun bathe you in freckle-producing Vitamin C rays and the springtime fragrances in the air lighten your spirits.
If you have the responsibility of caring for a child or grandchild, these quieter moments are an excellent time for outdoor teachable moments. Watch for the hummingbird flitting around the yard. What’s its food source? How much energy is needed to keep those little wings buzzing away? Where are the bumblebees? How do they pollinate your favorite flowers? Why are we seeing fewer and fewer of them? This is all simple science to most of us. But, to a child it is all new; a bright and shiny penny waiting to be held and understood.
My old Connecticut Yankee pragmatism reminds me that children learn more from doing rather than being told. So, give them something to do that connects them to earth early in their lives. Whether you have a half-acre vegetable garden, a single raised bed or a few pots on your deck, teachable moments are still possible. Do a science project which rewards with some tasty bounty the child grew him/her self (with just a bit of help, no doubt). Teach them how to plant a few seeds and see how things actually grow and mature before they ever reach the refrigerator. Help make that connection.
What to plant you ask? In early spring it’s not too soon to plant shelling peas or snow peas. Build a tee-pee to support the vines and you’ve also built a child’s play house. Later in the season zucchini is the plant for them to grow. If space is a consideration, there are small, bush zucchini that will produce regular-sized vegetables in a quarter of the space. For tighter balcony spaces, clean some pots, add soil and introduce your kiddo to growing carrots, lettuce and, the fastest of all, radishes. Remember to look at the growing process and the products through the senses of the child. You can provide teachable moments and nurture a future gardener. Sounds like a win-win situation within your control.