Have we been grounded? It sure feels like it. But not by an angry parent. Instead, a tiny, unwelcome invader has seemingly put life as we know it on hold. Events are canceled, the kids are out of school, and lots of us are staying close to home.

COVID-19 had terrible timing. Here we are, in the midst of Spring, when Texas is in its full gardening glory. But there is good news, and we really need some – outdoors is the safest place to be!

We can, and should, get out and garden. Sunshine and fresh air are just what the doctor ordered. In fact, nurses treating patients during the 1918 epidemic discovered that their patients recovered better, and staff acquired fewer cases, when they were nursed outside. Sunlight and fresh air are great sanitizers.

Sunshine provides a shot of Vitamin D, great for the immune system. Exercise is good for the body and the soul. And just being in nature can lift our spirits – the birds are singing, the bees are gathering pollen and nectar for the spring baby-boom, and the garden is filling with color and fragrance with every passing day.

It’s also a place to get away from the added stress. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of the 24-hour gloom and doom. Gardening ALWAYS lifts my mood, even when it wears me out.

It’s a great time to start a new garden project, or to tackle that unruly spot in the garden you have been meaning to work on. Since the kids are home, and need to burn off some energy, why not get them out with you? They will enjoy the time out of the house, whether they know it or not.

But we’ve been asked to stay in, what about that? Our nursery allows you to practice every cautionary guideline we have been given. You can easily stay 6-feet away from others, which is the primary reason for asking everyone to shelter at home. Every accommodation is being made to keep you and our staff safe. We can guide you through the process and get you safely loaded and headed on your way.

We’ll miss greeting new friends with a handshake, and old friends with a hug, but for the time being, we can use jazz hands to show you how glad we are to see you. A little silliness is just what we need.

Here are a few projects you might enjoy:

Plant a new vegetable garden – there is no better way to avoid crowds than to shop right from your own backyard. Include some quick growing crops such as lettuce, radishes, and leafy greens. You’ll be harvesting fresh salads sooner than you know. There is still time to get in a few tomatoes. Okra, peppers, and squash can all go in now. Underplant your fruit trees with beans. The vines will feed the soil and serve as a living mulch. Leave step-ins to enable harvesting of your ripening fruits.

Start or expand your herb garden – herbs have a place in every part of our daily lives. We use them in cooking, crafting, for fragrance, and for the holistic lifestyle.

Plan an Insectary Garden – we love insects; even the creepy-crawlies and no-see-ums. There are many more beneficial insects in the world than there are pest species. It’s easy to love the butterflies and the bees, and we know we need them. But there are many other beneficial insects that should be a part of a diverse, well-tended garden. We have a burgeoning Insectary at The Arbor Gate. It’s young, and we are still observing, tweaking, and trying different plants. Take a few minutes to stroll through. It’s been a real pleasure for us, and we know you will love your own adventures in Insectary Gardening.

Plant a fruit tree…..or shrub, or vine – There is room for fruit in every garden. They are the combination of beauty and bounty. Spring means clouds of blooms from white, through every shade of pink, all the way to crimson. Citrus adds fragrance to the garden. Blooms are followed by fruit from late spring through winter. With a little planning, you can harvest fruit for at least 11 months here.

Plant some seeds – never grown your own transplants from seed? It’s so much fun! And this is a great project for the kids. Veggies, herbs, flowers…..how about gourds! Fun now and fun later, crafting after the harvest.

Color, color, color – sit out in your garden for a little while and find spots where you could add a little color to brighten things up. If you have a garden themed to one color, add something with height or texture to give it a lift. You’ll be surprised at how many spots speak to you and call for just “something new or different”.

Plant a new container – this is a great way to do a half day project that will do wonders for your mood. We have containers in beautiful colors and styles, and plants to suit every container and location. If you are working from home, this is a great way to put a point of interest outside your nearest home office window.

Not sure where to start? Take a walk through our demonstration beds, the rose house, the herb house. You can also browse through our How-To videos on The Arbor Gate YouTube Channel. Inspiration will find you.

Come see us. Social distancing does not have to mean isolation. You can still enjoy the Texas spring you deserve.

Angela Chandler

Written by Angela Chandler Angela Chandler is a lifelong gardener with a passion for learning and teaching. She tends a ½ acre garden in Highlands, Texas that includes ornamentals, fruits, a small experimental nursery, a flock of Buff Orpington chickens, and a Lab mix named Harley. Her gardening adventures would not be possible without her husband, Fred – always willing to help unload leaves, compost and help build beds. Angela is a member of the Harris County Master Gardener Association – Retired, and a member of the Garden Writer’s Association.