Kellye Champman: COVID victory garden

Kellye Champman’s garden.

Kellye Champman’s garden.

In the spring of 2020 and at the onset of pandemic life, I started a small container garden. The need to shelter in place left me seeking living companions where they could be safely found.
Getting my hands dirty in soil and being outside worked to counteract some of the stress and uncertainties of the virus and worldwide concern. It seemed like I was being asked to live in a bubble, distant and separate. Gardening was earthy, touchable and real.
While COVID-19 spread and held us captive under the threat of grueling and lonely death, one terracotta pot of flowers and four burlap planters of herbs helped me focus on life. Little did I know that the microbes in the soil would also help restore balance to my potentially over-sanitized hands. Spending so much time inside, I tested positive for a Vitamin D deficiency. My garden beckoned me to spend more time out of doors helping the sun to replenish it.
Even after a move and spending the winter indoors, most of my 2020 herbs came back to enhance my meals for another season. Their return signaled the hope of spring as did the circulation of effective vaccines.
In the dead of winter, I mapped out a plan for my small 6X10 patio envisioning edible flowers, herbs, a few vegetables, and a climbing rose bush. I decided on heirloom tomatoes and found the German Queen for a large, slicing variety and a Yellow Pear Cherry for a small salad choice. The Queen would grow up a shepherd’s hook hanging-basket-holder secured by soil in a huge wine bucket. The cherries would hang down from the double hooked hanger in a Topsy Turvy grow bag.
To balance the holder, I planted a container of nasturtiums from seed to hang from the second hook. It was a gambler’s choice given such a delicate leaf and flower under our scorching summertime sun. It was a risk that has paid off and proved to be a winner because of the placement of the nasturtiums on the patio and the sun’s path on it. The fierce glare of the sun only focuses briefly on the fragile crop at the beginning of the day. To complete the vegetable ensemble, I planted sweet basil and marigolds, grown also from seed, alongside the tomato vine, a well-known companion plant combination.
I added a plot of grass for my dogs to enjoy and made beds for them to lounge in as they keep watch and bark at passersby. They sniff and chew pet grass added for their pleasure.
My bare-rooted Handel’s Climbing Rose was planted in a second huge wine bucket purchased at F.I.S.H and Alpine strawberry seeds were nestled into a special strawberry pot. I waited and tried not to worry that they wouldn’t emerge then shouted hurrahs when little green leaves first appeared. I protected them all from frosty dips in our spring weather much as I sought to shield myself from COVID-19.
My budget, too, was guarded. Starting many plants from seed and tending last year’s herbs, I found containers on sale and in thrift stores. Making due whenever possible resembled the practice of the Victory Garden encouraged at the ends of the first and second World Wars.
Now, with life resuming slowly and cautiously, I gratefully water and fertilize the patio garden that nurtured my emotional well-being during a very trying year. All summer my red, white and blue petunias will grow and drape over the rail to grace the street below and, at night, white lights illumine the balcony in celebration. The tradition of the Victory Garden rings true as in triumph in a war of a different nature than that of the World Wars. Though only my dead-headed petals will fall in confetti fashion and, as in all wars, there is sad memorial alongside the jubilance, victory over pandemic life is the theme.
We’ve won.

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