Plants Make Us Happy | Simple, Sustainable Gardening Tips From A Landscape Designer At Home

There is a certain time each day when the reality of being at home all day, every day with my three young children starts to feel overwhelming. Weeks into this daily cycle, I now know the early signs. I try to pivot towards being grateful for my friends and neighbours who are not stuck at home. Instead they are out in our community performing essential work.  Then I go outside and I daydream about my garden, take in the harbingers of spring, and inevitably, I feel better.  

 For many of us, this period of physical distancing is an opportunity to work in the garden and start planning projects for the coming growing season. We may now have some extra time at home to enjoy and plan for the arrival of spring and reap some of the myriad mental and physical benefits of a little time outside. For me, just a little fresh air wipes away anxiety, gets my creative juices flowing, and grounds me…usually literally, as I just can’t help poking around in the dirt to see what plants might be popping up already. 

Here are some suggestions on how to add a little satisfaction to your day out in the garden:  

1. WEED!  

Early spring is a great time of year to pull pesky plants, like the invasive garlic mustard.  The soil is generally soft and weeds are just beginning to come out of dormancy, so are easier to pull out.  Plus, nothing feels more satisfying than yanking an undesired plant out and getting the whole root, am I right?  

Garlic mustard (in the photo above) in its early spring state – a great time to eradicate it from your yard and neighbourhood green spaces.  (credit: GRCA) 

Check out the GRCA’s list of particularly harmful plants that may be lurking in your yard, plus some great alternatives to invasive plants commonly found in residential landscaping.  

2. PLAN A NEW GARDEN  

Planning and planting a garden are an act of hope for the future. Not to mention, gardens provide a socially acceptable reason to use a pickaxe and really show your lawn who’s boss. Keep in mind that many local hardware stores and nurseries are offering contact-less pick-up or delivery options.  Check with your favourite businesses to see what the options are to support local businesses while practicing physical distancing.  

I’m planning a new garden bed with a little pathway in my front yard.  I like to use a disconnected garden hose or rope to lay out different shapes until I get it just right before using an edger to make it official.   

If you’re not sure how to fill your new garden bed, check out our Bloom{in}Box garden kits for a curated selection of native plants that would thrive in either sun, shade, or moist soils. I’m going to use a Bloom {in Sun} Box in my new garden bed, in front of a row of dwarf panicle hydrangeas. In a couple of years, my garden will hopefully look similar to this one, which uses some of the species from the Bloom {in Sun} Box (little bluestem and butterfly weed) mixed with the homeowners’ day lilies.   

Extra Tip: If your new garden project involves a tree, we might be able to help. Check out our Backyard Tree Planting Program

3. WATCH IT RAIN 

Observing the flow of rain and runoff on your property while plants are dormant can illuminate drainage issues you need to improve, or opportunities for a rain smart project, like a rain garden or rain barrels.  

4. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY WITH YOUR KIDS. 

Wow, digging, hoeing, or foraging random things from nature makes my kids so happy!  They’ve made taco stands and sold me berries wrapped in leaves (sorry, birds), created spy bases in the branches of our trees, and feverishly moved around rocks and sticks doing who knows what…but they always come back in happier and calmer.   

The Royal Botanical Gardens has some great videos to inspire your kiddos outside, as well as some more educational activities and interactive classes online 

A driving force of my work at Reep Green Solutions is that small changes we make on our individual properties can collectively add up to make big impacts on biodiversity, local water quality, flood prevention, pollinator health, and human health. The way you care for your property, whatever the size, can have positive benefits for you, your neighbours, and our environment.  

There are lots of activities you can do right now to make a positive difference. During this unusual and challenging time, connecting with nature every day may be just the tonic we need. And if you, like me, prefer a little gin with that tonic, I think your flowers will understand.  

 

Becca Robinson

Landscape Designer, Green Infrastructure Programs 

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