Somewhere That’s Green: Gardening Through Stress by Natalia Noble

The COVID-19 crisis seems to be all that’s on anyone’s mind right now, but there’s still some pickings to be gleaned from the situation that isn’t all doom-and-gloom. For example, it’s just further proof that Mother Nature doesn’t really give two seeds to rub together about the workings of our daily lives, and hasn’t had any reservations about letting us know that she is ultimately in control.
I’m sure she’s been enjoying the extra relief she’s been feeling from having a significantly decreased amount of air pollution to contend with, and she isn’t minding the fact that people seem to be showing her a heck of a lot more appreciation when they finally do go outside (at a safe social distance, of course) to walk around a park or along a trail for a hike.

Mother Nature and I

And that’s not all that’s been coming back to her: I think that Mother Nature is about to get a significant push from all of us living upon her for some more home gardens, and especially ones that yield life-giving food for us to eat. On a video chat with one of my favorite older neighbors the other day, I found out that she’s been holding out on me: no she’s not hoarding toilet paper or packets of pasta, but she will eventually have some fresh tomatoes to accompany any pasta she decides to make, hoarded or otherwise. Although I used to come over frequently to visit and walk our dogs together, I’ve been avoiding her place altogether out of worry that I’d inadvertently spread the virus, on the chance that I’ve come into contact with it unknowingly. 

Taking a Personal V-Day

Well, inspired by the “victory gardens” of old, my neighbor Dee has decided to take the small plot of earth beside her home in a tiny backyard and make something of it. I honestly didn’t think anything other than weeds could grow with only our neighborhood’s rather roughly hewn lawns as an indication, but Dee is getting right to it: and the gardening couldn’t come at a better time. In these days of isolation and fear—especially for our beloved members of the older community—the simple act of loving the soil around you can be healing. Even as more and more states issue their “stay-at-home” orders, a few open nurseries are providing a much-needed service to our elderly friends and staying open just long enough to provide them with tomato and pepper seeds. 

I’ve never been one to get my hands dirty, but it sure thrilled me to know that Dee is getting out, at least to her backyard. One of the most dangerous side-effects of the stay-at-home orders, especially to the elderly, is that they’ll be interpreted as orders to stay home and on the couch. To someone already facing some of the health adversities of advanced age, that kind of overwhelming stillness and isolation can actually create plenty of its own harm as well. Gardening is an activity that promotes healthy, low-impact movement while lowering stress, and even the spokesman for the California Department of Public Health in Sacramento—no doubt one of the states to be hit hardest by this crisis—recommends that the state’s older population should continue to get out to their gardens and move. As long as Dee and her newly discovered “green thumb” are socially distanced from others, both she and her forthcoming tomatoes will be just fine. 

I’m More of an Indoor Girl

I am not the outdoorsy type, but I am intrigued now by Dee’s fine green tomatoes, and about what it would take to do some indoor growing of my own. Just like most of us non-essential types, I’m stuck in a consistent haze of “nothing to do, and nowhere to go, with all the time in the world” to do it, and a healthy indoor activity that gets me up off the couch would be just as welcome to my body as it is to Dee’s. I also am looking forward to seeing what I can do about giving back to the earth by making some more of it. As far as species options go, some options for making the grass look greener on the inside include succulents, and some foliage producing plants. I need to find plants that will tolerate lower light and humidity since they’ll be less likely to deal with pests. Some basic care tips include:

  • Keeping the soil supple and moist.
  • Placing the plant near a light source.
  • Avoiding overwatering and underwatering.
  • Making sure that the pot has a drainage hole.

In this time of uncertainty and fear, having a few plots of green indoors can significantly lift my darkened mood, and it will certainly give me an excuse to pull back the drapes and let some sunlight in. As the air pollution diminishes outdoors as well, there’s probably no harm in cracking a window either. I can even wave to Dee as she gets down to her gardening. 

I’m still not putting on pants, though.

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