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Gardening: The beauty of gardening during difficult times

These may be tumultuous times we live in, but it is important to keep things positive. And while we may be forced to stay at home, now is as good of time as any to take up new hobbies or better oneself in the ones we already have.

In the recent weeks, there have been many calls to the Clemson Extension office on gardening, especially from those who are just getting started.

While gardening can take work, there are a myriad of benefits from being in the garden or just growing plants on the porch.

From flowers to herbs to fruits and vegetables, gardening is a rewarding experience. Now more than ever may be a great time to start a garden.

Gardening

A tropical hibiscus blooms. Christopher Burtt/Provided

And while the fall is the best time to plant many trees and shrubs, spring provides a great time to plant many vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Thankfully, spring is here, and that means we can start building and changing our gardens.

Starting a garden all depends on the space you may have and exactly what you would like to grow.

Taking soil samples is a critical first step. While the Clemson Extension offices may be closed, you can still take and send off soil samples to the Clemson Agriculture Services lab if you haven’t done so already.

Take into account the sun, especially the intensity and the time of day. This is usually the biggest limiting factor for any garden. Fruits and vegetables will prefer the most sun, while many herbs and flowers can handle some shade.

Finally, it is imperative to determine what you would like out of the garden. With many things though, you tend to get out what you put in.

Herbs are one of the easiest groups of plants to grow and where many gardeners like to start. Many herbs require very little maintenance outside of harvesting, they are also relatively pest free and many can be grown in containers.

Gardening

Herbs grow in a raised bed. Christopher Burtt/Provided

Keeping a small raised herb bed can provide easy harvest and watering and can be moved at one’s convenience.

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Gardening

Lavender grows in containers. Christopher Burtt/Provided

Pots of cilantro on a windowsill also make for easy harvesting. One of my favorites, mint, comes in many different forms whether chocolate mint or peppermint. Keep in mind mint should be kept to container as it can get out of control in the ground.

Herbs make great companion plants, especially in the vegetable garden, as well as provide pretty flowers such as lavender and rosemary.

Growing your own food has plenty of benefits, but most importantly, it gives us a piece of mind. Some of the easiest foods to grow can be done in containers, whether herbs or even some vegetables.

Peppers and potatoes can be put on porches and still produce plenty of quality vegetables.

Right now, highbush blueberries are putting on fruit while the Rabbiteye blueberries are in flower.

Gardening

This highbush blueberry plant is putting on fruit. Christopher Burtt/Provided

Blackberries are flushing out and putting out flowers as well.

When planting tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, it is necessary to choose healthy, disease- and pest- free plants.

Many issues can be avoided by purchasing decent transplants. Keep in mind that okra, all types of beans as well as cucumbers can be directly seeded into the soil. Once again, it is good to purchase quality seeds, as these will produce the best plants.

And just because we may be thinking of growing food during this time, flowers always have a place in any garden.

Gardening

A native azalea. Christopher Burtt/Provided

Although azaleas are fading, plenty of other flowers are starting to bloom. Wildflowers, such as yarrow and clover, are great for attracting pollinators and birds, while more ornamental flowers just provide a chance to enjoy the beauty that nature can provide.

The flowering vine clematis and tropical hibiscus produce vibrant colors. Plants such as the native azalea and false indigo are also putting on a show while others are flushing out and putting on new growth. There are a multitude of different flowers, from annuals to shrubs, that make great additions to any garden.

One of the most important aspects of gardening is to keep it simple. Gardening can mean many things to many different people, but most of all, it is meant to be a stress reliever. The beauty of gardening is there is something for everyone.

Christopher Burtt is the Urban Horticulture Extension Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator for Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. He graduated from Clemson University and his main area of expertise is consumer horticulture with experience in research agriculture. He can be reached by email, cburtt@clemson.edu.

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