At the start of the pandemic, gardening took on much greater importance as many homeowners and apartment dwellers feared going to their local grocery store or farmers market or even having groceries delivered, to the extent that they would rigorously sanitize them. Growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs seemed so much safer—and it became a fun family activity, pitching in together to till soil, water seedlings, and harvest yields.
April 14 is National Gardening Day, first marked in 2018 by Cool Springs Press, a publisher of home and garden do-it-yourself books, to acknowledge the hobby of gardening and encourage gardeners to share their knowledge. Even as the country begins to feel a bit safer with more people getting vaccinated, the gardening bug has remained with many homeowners.
Whether your clients are new to gardening or longtime aficionados, here are three tips you can share as the gardening season gets underway.
1. When to plant. Some think it’s important to wait until Mother’s Day to start a garden. For others it’s Memorial Day. But experts at Bonnie Plants, a wholesale greenhouse grower based in Union Springs, Ala., say it’s best to learn about your plant hardiness zone and follow that timetable. The company has a map on its site, as does the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Depending on where you live, some vegetables, herbs, and fruits can go into the ground now while others must wait. For example, a gardener living between Zone 5 and 6 in the Hudson Valley areas of New York could now plant an apple tree if the soil isn’t too wet, along with raspberries, kale, lettuce, and broccoli. But for best results, they should wait to plant tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers until after May 10 or so.
2. How to best water. Shortages arise from time to time, so it’s best to know which plants need less water and to master prudent watering. “Less is more, but we tend to drown our plants, so cut back on water slowly. If they droop, give them a little more,” says Sacramento, Calif.–based landscape designer Michael Glassman. Watering is about trial and error, he says. And water conservation is easier when using container gardening rather than putting plants in the ground. Homeowners can also ask experts at their local nursery about what plants to buy and when and what the best watering routine is for them. Don’t buy on impulse, he says, since you want plants that are best for your zone, shade, sun, budget, and other factors.
3. How to give back. Gardening is a great shared experience between family and neighbors. It can bring communities together. Glassman offers extra lemons from his Meyer lemon tree by placing them on top of a community mailbox on his street with a note that reads, “Please take the extra fruit,” he says. There’s definitely an opportunity for real estate pros to make gardening connections in the community, too. Bonnie Plants, for example, is teaming up with AmpleHarvest.org for the “Grow More, Feed More” initiative, which connects gardeners with food pantries to donate excess produce to those in need as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause food insecurity. The AmpleHarvest website offers ways to register a pantry and to locate a pantry to find food.