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Gardening During the Pandemic: Finding a Refuge

Gardens have been associated with healing since ancient times, and people have long turned to gardens as places of refuge.  During these current days of health, economic and other concerns, the need for healing and refuge is paramount.  Sometimes it may seem there is no place to hide from discouraging news, but there is a case to be made that gardening can provide an experience of hope, purpose and even joy.Relaxing shady garden

With increased at-home time during the pandemic, our residents have increasingly turned to gardening activities, and the need for horticultural information has risen.  In fact, our the Extension Service has seen an increased interest in gardening topics.  According to Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension Polk County Residential Horticulture Extension Agent, online webinars and short courses on varied gardening topics have reached over 1,000 participants over a three-month time span.  Additionally, UF/IFAS Extension Polk County Master Gardener Volunteers who have assisted in leading these programs have seen three gardening themes emerge as popular with residents.

Whether you are a seasoned or beginning gardener, or even just curious and find you have more time in your schedule during  the stay-at-home trend, engaging in one (or more) of these three themes can lead to your own garden refuge.

GROWING EDIBLES:  A large garden interest is that of growing edibles, especially vegetables and herbs.  More time spent at home has led to more creative meal planning, and what better way to enhance our meals than with our own harvest!  Autumn is a perfect time to install a cool season edible garden.  Beginners can try planting tomatoes, peppers, onions, and lettuce varieties.  If you have never tasted freshly harvested broccoli, it is an absolute “must” for your winter garden, and quite easy to grow. If space is limited, consider growing delicious herbs and vegetables in containers.Vegetables in raised beds wood

FLORIDA-FRIENDLY LANDSCAPING™:  In addition to growing edibles, our residents have shown an increased interest in learning about Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, a University of Florida program that guides residents in earth-friendly and sustainable landscaping practices.  Homeowners, businesses and public institutions are learning to reduce high-maintenance landscapes, adding beds of trees, shrubs and more! The goal of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ is to decrease pollution and protect our natural water resources.  This goal can be reached by following 9 nine guiding principles.  Based on scientific research, these guidelines are easy to use.  In fact, it has been said that landscaping the Florida-Friendly way is to simplify and “garden the way your grandparents did”!

NATIVE PLANTS: The third gardening trend expands on the Florida-Friendly theme by encouraging the use of Florida native plants in our landscapes; a concept described as “gardening for life”.  By planting a diversity of native plants, our landscapes can become “mini-refuges” for a variety of small wildlife, including birds, butterflies and other pollinators, as well as many other beneficial insects.  The loss of native habitats has decreased their numbers, and more and more residents are finding a joy in helping our environment by welcoming these wonderful creatures to their yards.Pink and red salvia

Planting a seed or plant in the ground is a looking-forward act of hope and faith. As plants are nurtured toward maturity or harvest, gardeners can experience a sense of purpose and control in their corner of the world.  During these stressful days, why not join in the ranks of happy gardeners and find your own garden refuge?  Happy Gardening!

This article was written by Master Gardener Volunteer Molly Griner under supervision of the Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator and Residential Horticulture Agent Anne Yasalonis.

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk.  The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Give us a call, or email us at polkmg@ifas.ufl.edu.

If you are not in Polk County, Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic.

The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida.  The program  extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.

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