F or gardeners like Karin Hamilton, the state’s stay-home orders have meant more time working their plots.
Hamilton has been casually cultivating little gardens in her yard in Dover for two years, but in this spring of pandemic, working from home and economic slowdown has allowed Hamilton to focus on her garden.
“Lockdown started mid-March, and that’s really too early to start, but I was itching to get going,” Hamilton said.
She started seeds under grow lights in her garage, put up a cold frame and built a small greenhouse. With help from online communities and a lot of YouTube videos, she’s learning about potatoes and “strawberry towers,” and thinking about how she can grow more food for herself and her 84-year-old father.
“I don’t want to be reliant on supermarkets for food that is so easy to grow” she said.
There has been a certain amount of trial-and-error involved, Hamilton said with a laugh.
“I lost a bunch of stuff, I gave a bunch of stuff away, and I kept replanting.”
Growing food, and the simple act of caring for beds, has been soothing, she said.
“If you open up to it, you’re able to get from it what you need to calm yourself,” Hamilton said. “Music is an island for some people. For me, it’s gardening. If I’m anxious, I go out in the garden (and) it all goes away.”
More people are seeking that oasis.
Goffstown gardener Jane Turcotte said her friends and family — people who never expressed any interest in growing things — have been coming to her for gardening advice this spring.
In Turcotte’s own garden, the balance has shifted from flowers to food, a reflection of a little bit of anxiety about how long the food system can be sustained during the coronavirus crisis.
“I’ve taken less space for my things that I do for joy, and giving more space to the things that are going to feed us,” Turcotte said.
She’s trying to help her elderly parents curb their trips to the supermarket. She’s planted cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, peas and carrots, and is cultivating an asparagus patch. And of course, tomatoes.
“Everybody wants the tomatoes,” she said.
She’s mailing seeds to friends around the state, and is on call to give gardening advice to the novices.
“I get a lot of messages, ‘Does this look right? Am I doing this right?’” Turcotte said.
She loves knowing more people are finding comfort in the garden.
“I hate this is all happening, but I love the fact that others are getting into this too,” she said. “I hope when things go back to normal, they’ll keep doing it.”
Plant sales disrupted
For New Hampshire’s garden clubs, the pandemic has shaken up the way they grow. Small town plots can’t be tended to, plant talks had to be postponed and several clubs have canceled annual plant sales.
The Epping Garden Club sold pansies earlier this year, said club president Eunice Miller. But instead of customers coming to pick up their plants when they arrived in mid-March, club members made doorstep deliveries for most of the plants.
The town’s garden plots really need to be raked and mulched, Miller said, but you need a few people for that heavy work — and the plots aren’t big enough to keep gardeners six feet apart.
It’s disappointing to watch spring coming without being able to spend time with the garden club, Miller said, but she sees it as a necessary sacrifice.
“It’s for the health of more than just us,” she said. “We’ve just been staying home and working on our own gardens.”
The Colonial Garden Club of Hollis knew their annual Mother’s Day plant sale could not go on as usual this year.
“When we had this coronavirus came on, the executive committee said were going to try to outsmart it and do an online sale,” said club secretary Carol Ace. “This coronavirus has definitely changed things up a bit.”
The club’s website, hollisgardenclub.org, will have an ordering form online from May 14-19, and buyers will pay online. Then club members will deliver the plants to buyers’ homes.
“We could have just said we’re not going to do it,” Ace said. “But there are hundreds of plants waiting for new homes. And gardeners around the state eager to get growing.