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Rodd Moesel, Beat the COVID-19 blues by gardening

We have been blessed with beautiful days, vibrant sunshine and a few life-nourishing rains to launch a gorgeous spring in our garden and landscape.

Many folks are spending more time at home to “shelter in place” with altered schedules without sports, movies, dining out, parties and other group activities, and the interest in gardening, landscaping and do-it-yourself projects is growing dramatically.

It is exciting to see so many new gardeners trying their hand at raising plants in addition to those who have planted vegetables or landscaped with flowers for many years. Gardening not only gives you a chance to beautify your yard and raise some of your own food, but it gives you a chance to get outside, be active and exercise while enjoying the healing sunshine and fresh air.

There are few better ways to beat the COVID-19 blues than spending time outside in your yard and garden while enjoying the wonders of nature.

This is a great time to garden as our nightime low temperatures are now in the 50s or higher and we can plant most everything and have a good chance at success. It is now time to plant even the hot-blooded warm-season crops like caladiums, sweet potatoes and periwinkle. This is prime planting season when we can transplant most warm-season vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, most all annuals and perennials, trees, berries and shrubs.

The issue for May plantings is not so much selecting the right planting time as selecting the right location for your plants. A big part of gardening success is getting the right plant in the right home as they can’t get up and move on their own.

Selecting the right location includes thinking about whether to locate in the sun, the shade or a spot with partial shade. It includes being aware of your soil type and if it is an area that is very well drained or where water can stand sometimes after rains or watering. You also want to be aware of the height the plants grow so you don’t cover up pretty shorter plants with tall plants that cover their view and sunlight.

The sun-shade level is pretty much set by the placement of your home, barns, trees, garage and other physical landmarks. Some plants do best in full sun, some do best in shade and others perform well in partial shade conditions where they are protected from sun part of the day.

Visit with your local nurseryman or garden center to discuss your conditions and make sure you get the right plants in the right light exposure. They can also help advise you on the height plants will grow so you aren’t putting tall sunflowers in front of dianthus or tall marigold or salvia in front of begonias, petunias or geraniums.

Soil type and drainage are issues you can help solve by adding more organic matter to the soil like sphagnum peat moss or good compost. If water stands regularly, you need to select plants that work in those conditions or determine a way to drain the area.

Another great solution for successful vegetable or flower gardens is to build raised beds or use decorative containers to raise many of your plants. This allows you to control the soil mix and you will do best with a light, well drained soil with lots of sphagnum peat or fine composted bark. Raised beds solve drainage and aeration issues, reduce grass and weed problems and make a great growing environment.

COVID-19 has disrupted lots of supply chains so you may not be able to get the exact plant varieties or garden supplies you had in mind. Your local greenhouse, nursery or garden center can help you find good selections for your plant needs.

This is a great time to get out of the house and enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and nature all around you in your very own yard. Plant some plants, water as needed and enjoy the wonders of new growth and flowers.

Rodd Moesel serves as president of Oklahoma Farm Bureau and was inducted into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame. Email garden and landscape questions to rmoesel@americanplant.com.

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