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BEACON Senior News

Keep Calm and Garden On

Mar 25, 2020 03:43PM ● By Paige Slaughter

In times of adversity, confusion and chaos, we’re granted the opportunity to reflect. Of course, we have that opportunity every day. But when life jolts us, we have hardly a choice but to pause and remember what truly matters.

Connection. Community. Safety. Food. The simplest elements of life stand out to us, and we see them as the essentials they are.

This is the same magic that takes place in the garden. Whenever we take a moment to be present—to notice life—the noise subsides, and we remember what it is to be alive.

Connection through solitude

Alive & Digging is in its fourth year of publication. Every month, when I think about what part of the garden I want to marvel about, I consider what might be happening in the garden by the time this column goes to print, and then by the time it reaches your hands. For the first time, as I write this particular column, I have no idea what will be happening then.

But I do know this: There are some things that always have meaning. Timeless things, like connecting with nature and being nurtured with fresh food.

If you find yourself in solitude, gift yourself moments of connection. Start plants from seed you’ve never before started, and as you notice sprouts becoming microscopically bigger each day, you’ll gift yourself the opportunity to feel connected.

Write a letter, or call a friend. Find a local farmer who’s adapting to the current state of affairs by delivering fresh produce to doorsteps.

Maybe you have more time than ever to be in your garden. What a blessing.

Fill your garden with abundance

In my first-ever column, I shared with you a manifesto—an invitation for you to create a space in which you’d feel connected, to experiment and play, and to venture into the gardening universe humbly and vibrantly alive and digging.

The garden is, for so many of us, a portal into the untamed “natural” world. It connects us to a realm of ideas, processes and possibilities that we’re often distanced from in our daily lives.

With daily life disrupted as it’s been, what better place is there to be than in the garden?

Poppies and pansies

Poppies add such beauty to the garden in spring, before it’s warm enough for many other flowers to come up. Sow a row of poppy seeds at the surface of the soil. Poppies need light to germinate, so add just a thin layer of straw on top of the bed to hold in moisture and provide protection from frosts.

Pansies (from starts) are also cold-hardy and the flowers are edible.

Greens: arugula, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, Bok choy, chard

Spread seeds across the bed so that each section of soil is sprinkled with an even layer of seeds. We’ll thin the plants as they come up, harvesting microgreens, young leaves and eventually full-grown greens.

For this style of planting, a leaf lettuce might be easier to manage than a head lettuce. Cover seeds with a thin layer of soil and a thin layer of straw to hold in moisture.

Carrots and beets

Mix a bit of sand into the section of soil where you’ll sow carrots and beets (unless your garden soil is mostly clay, in which case, skip the sand and add compost instead.) Sprinkle these root veggie seeds, covering them with a thin layer of soil and then a 1-inch layer of straw. I like to cover my carrot seeds with a layer of fabric to keep the soil really moist and create a darker environment, which encourages germination for carrots.


Spacing will depend on the variety of onion you choose, so follow the spacing guidelines on your seed packets when planting. Sow onion seeds in rows and cover with soil, then straw. Onions are slow to start, so be diligent pulling weeds.

Peas and buckwheat

These plantings are more about utilizing our space in spring while we wait for temperatures to warm. Despite how hard we collectively cross our fingers, tomatoes go in the ground after Mother’s Day. Utilizing garden space means planting something in your tomato patch that will grow during the weeks and months leading up to that glorious day of tomato-planting.

Enter: buckwheat

Our thick bed of buckwheat will suppress weeds, put out flowers for beneficial insects, and fix nitrogen in the soil—all while taking care of the space in our garden that will eventually hold tomatoes and peppers.

You can also plant peas in areas that will be used for warm-weather plants. I like to plant a larger area of peas for a few reasons: Young sweet pea shoots taste wonderful in salads, so this is a cover crop that I’ll harvest and eat! Later, I’ll use this space to plant corn, beans and squash: the three sisters.

The act of gardening is a simple one. And simplicity is what makes gardening so enchanting. May you venture into your garden universe and find everything you need.