It seems that when Americans go through tough times, they turn to creating gardens. It makes sense for many reasons. In the U.S., gardening is one of our top outdoor leisure time activities. It is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise or just some space away from whomever you are quarantined with.
Growing your own food can help if you find yourself in a financial pinch. But the act of gardening itself can also be beneficial. Research shows that just interacting with nature can have healing effects. There is a bacteria in soil that has been noted to interact with our bodies to have an anti-depressant effect.
If there is an upside in any of this, we are at least experiencing these stay at home orders during an excellent time to garden. We may be a little late for some vegetables, but you never really know with this weather.
First thing to consider if you want to grow a food crop is that you need ample sunlight. Vegetables and fruits ideally need 8 hours of direct sunlight to flourish. The next biggest consideration is soil. The best way to make sure you have good soil, is to make your own raised bed or do container gardening. Five gallon buckets will even work! If you don’t have access to outdoor sunlight, you can grow food with the help of artificial lighting. That is a more complicated subject, but I’d be glad to point you to resources if you are interested. Also, there are many community gardens throughout Denton County that might have plots available, so let us know if you need help locating one.
Vegetables that we can plant now by seed directly in a garden or container would be squash, cucumber, beans, peas, okra and corn. (You need quite a bit of corn for pollination so if you have a small space, skip it.) Seeds can be inexpensive. But they can also be tricky. I can tell where I planted my bean seeds because the next morning, that’s where the squirrel was digging. Ugh! Don’t the squirrels remember we just had an acorn mast year?! Anyway, the other good news is that squashes and cucumbers really don’t like to be transplanted. So you aren’t being cheap; you are being horticulture-savvy.
If you do have a little more money to spend, I’d buy transplants of tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. (Of course that is only if you like to eat those things!) You can grow those from seed, but it’s too late for a spring planting to do that. However, you could aim to grow your own transplants for a fall garden.
I like to stick with cherry or medium sized tomatoes because they seem to have better fruit quality. Nothing worse than waiting on a big ol’ beefsteak tomato to get ripe and then we get a hailstorm, or just too much rain and the fruit is ruined.
At dcmga.com we have a tab for North Texas Gardening and a section dedicated to growing vegetables. Our Master Gardeners may be at home, but they are still available to answer your gardening questions: 940-349-2892 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, this time has moved us beyond our norm and AgriLife has been rapidly responding with various online opportunities. I am involved with the Aggie Horticulture Facebook Live event, every Wednesday and Friday at 1 pm. They are recorded and you can watch them later. Check here to see what you missed and what’s coming up! https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fblive/.
If you don’t have enough light/space to grow vegetables or a houseplant, I do hope you will take advantage of being outside. Plants make us feel better. It is spring time and the show is fabulous.