Gardening is a good way to lift spirits and pull together as a community. (Photo: Sutterstock).
Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension
Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

It takes a village to raise a child. The popular Igbo proverb takes on more meaning today as our entire community is affected by the shuttering of schools, businesses, and stores. Pundits are predicting that we’ll see the ripple effect of this echo through our lives for months, with hunger and need for basic necessities likely to increase.

In short, the whole village needs each other. How can gardeners help? Elizabeth Black, member of the Boulder Culinary Gardeners group, sent a thoughtful note out to us all and it’s making its way through social media groups.

“It looks like we may be stuck at home for an extended period of time, possibly even through the summer, due to quarantine measures,” she wrote. “It also looks like many folks will need the services of food banks, since they will be out of work for an extended period.”

Black called on the skill set gardeners can offer, urging us to rise up to help, and made suggestions on how. Her call to action is grounded in the belief that we can each play to our strengths; gardeners are a good group to do this.

We’re a generous bunch, albeit a little weird looking with mismatched clothes and a few leaves stuck in our hair. And as inspirational posts on social media point out, gardening isn’t cancelled. As a bonus, it’s soil amendment time and people aren’t likely to approach to within our six-foot buffer zone if we’re kicking up a lot of dirt.

Black suggested three things for us to do:

  1. “Plant a row or bed or extra patch of something to donate to one of the organizations that supplies folks in need.” Check with your local food banks or pantries for donation days and hours and ask them what fresh produce they’d like most to have donated. Consider giving space to items the food bank needs rather than trying out that exotic plant you’d been thinking of growing.
  2. “Grow some extra seedlings for your neighbors to plant, and encourage them to do so.”
    Offering to place seedlings on a neighbor’s doorstep for them to take is a great way to encourage gardening – but use clean gloves when handling the pots you plan to give away and if you are the recipient. Implement the “ding and dash” of ringing the doorbell to tell them their plants have arrived – seedlings instead of zucchini.
  3. “Share your expertise with your friends and acquaintances, so they can feel more in control in these uncertain times. They will develop a new hobby that will keep them fed, entertained and feeling powerful in these uncertain times.” If you have an extra tool or hose, clean and disinfect them to offer to the person new to gardening. Our hobby is simple, but also takes items they might not be able to afford. Some gentle humor in explaining the vagaries of Mother Nature in the garden can help keep spirits up in tough time. Encourage people to keep trying if a seedling gets stolen by birds or trampled by little feet. Gardening is a good way to lift spirits and pull together as a community.

By Carol A. O’Meara. Carol is an Extension Agent – Horticulture Entomology at Colorado State University Extension Boulder County. For more information contact CSU Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6377, e-mail comeara@bouldercounty.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.