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Gardening activity is being supercharged right now by three fevers working together to keep more of us close to home.
Pardon my deconstructionism, but both church-goers and pub crawlers alike understand that what’s being euphemistically presented as “social distancing” and “sheltering in place” is actually a legally enforced quarantine. It makes important sense, of course, and it’s forcing a lot of us to get creative.
As an aside, I’m softening the chafing with a gentler term used by Polynesian Māori for a temporary prohibition placed over an area: Rahui. Rhymes with phooey, but still sounds better than the alternatives.
But it’s weird how, just as spring and cabin fevers are releasing a torrent of “get up and go” juice, they are being thwarted by concerns over catching a virus fever which is keeping us cooped up. So, we’re getting away from the electronic entertainment and the refrigerator by puttering in the garden.
As in other times of stress and concerns over food supply chains, a Victory Garden spirit is washing over people who haven’t gardened in years, or never gave it a go. They are digging in the dirt, making small raised beds, and filling pots and hanging baskets with vegetables and herbs, giving them a little fertilizer, and watering and weeding to stay sane.
Luckily, Commissioner of Agriculture Andy Gipson has declared that garden centers can remain open as “essential services.” I have been visiting and surveying wholesale growers and retail stores (keeping safe distance, of course) to see what’s happening, and they are booming more than ever.
By the way, I was reminded by a friend at a locally-owned garden center that his cash registers are programmed to not tax customers on stuff bought for growing food. Mississippians aren’t required to pay sales tax on seeds or plants of vegetables, herbs, or fruits, or the fertilizer used to grow them.
That’s just one of the little things that new gardeners should know about saving money in the garden. Another biggie is that you can rent a powerful tiller in top condition and wear it out once a year a whole lot more cheaply and with a lot less hassle than owning and storing one. Just saying.
For years now I have ended every single weekly radio program with the refrain of “take a kid to a garden center or a farmers’ market, or just outside, to show ‘em how to do what we do best – and that’s get dirty!” And I mean it – reasonable exposure to dirt has been pretty well nailed down by healthy microbiologists as a good way to boost our immune systems. And a garden is the best place to be exposed to the good stuff.
Nothing new to those of us raised right. Way before it was proven science, every time a new child was born into our family my parents would have a pile of topsoil delivered to their big Delta yard, and for several years it was that grandchild’s personal pile to scatter with tools and toys. By the way, this was way before cell phones, the Internet, and Netflix, when a stick was enough to stimulate a kid’s imagination.
The yard looked like a giant fire ant colony but as the children grew up, what started out as personal playgrounds (and inoculation to boost young immune systems) ended as a lesson in responsibility as they helped Granddad spread their piles into low areas and tree stump holes.
So let’s relearn to get out a bit more, play in the dirt, plant some stuff. Water, weed, and wave to the neighbors.
Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.