Tip Sheets

Nurture seeds, wellbeing: Tips for gardening during a crisis

Media Contact

Lindsey Knewstub

Whether it’s to reduce anxiety or get active outside, gardening is great activity during the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, gardening is growing in popularity in recent weeks and supply stores are experiencing high demand for seeds, tools and other products.

Stephen Reiners

Professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science

Steve Reiners is a professor of horticulture at Cornell University and a New York state vegetable industry expert. He has advice on easy plants for beginners.

“We are dealing with a terrible pandemic, frustrating us as to what we can do to make a difference. Take a break from the news and social media and get outside. Research shows time spent in nature relieves stress and anxiety, improves your mood, and boosts feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Those are all things we need right now.

“Fortunately, it’s spring, days are getting longer, and we can get outside and start gardening. For those with kids at home, use gardening to teach science, biology, environmental studies and even math. There’s no reason not to have some fresh produce even if space is limited. 

“Here's what you need to start a vegetable garden: a sunny, outdoor space, preferably with at least 4 hours of direct sun, easy access to water to irrigate and somewhere to plant a garden bed or container.

“Easy plants for beginners include radishes, beets, onions, snap beans, zucchini, tomatoes, greens (spinach, chard, lettuce) and herbs (parsley, basil, and cilantro).”

Bobbie Kuhlman

Horticulturalist, Greenhouse Assistant

Bobbie Kuhlman is a horticulturalist and the curator of the vegetable garden at Cornell Botanic Gardens. Kuhlman offers best practices for small-space gardening.

“Living in such unusual times has encouraged many folks to discover or rediscover their passion for growing their own food. There is a great sense of security and pride that comes with providing for your family and a large space isn’t necessary to enjoy the beauty and bounty of a garden. There are many great ways to use your small space and containers so that you have a successful year.

“Carrots, peppers, bunching onions, eggplants, tomatoes, radishes, greens, peas, beans, beets and potatoes can all be grown successfully in containers. For herbs, thyme and rosemary enjoy a dryer soil and can thrive in containers. Mint and chives can be quite aggressive so growing them in pots is a great way to help contain that behavior. Other herbs that fit the bill are basil, parsley, tarragon and cilantro.

“When picking a container, consider how big each plant gets and how much root space it will need to thrive. Be sure your container can fully drain and that you don’t over crowd the plants which can reduce yield and increase the risk of pests and disease. Vertical gardening and succession planting are fantastic ways to take advantage of the space and take in a higher yield.

“Be sure your efforts are in the right place – is your small space going to get enough light for the plants you are growing? Too sunny? Is this spot very windy? Many containers can be easily moved to more ideal locations at any time.”

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