Gardening things you can do now despite the COVID-19 cancellations

snowdrops flowers by Stofko
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Plantasia is cancelled. The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens is closed until at least April 20. Lots of other places and activities are shut down, too.

It’s disappointing, but we all need to do what we can do to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But here is good news: Spring is arriving on March 19. The weather seems to be getting milder. And there are actually some gardening activities you can do now!

I’ll list gardening tasks I can think of. Please share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

Take a walk in your yard

Have you been in your yard since you finished raking last fall? Did anything get damaged? What plants are sprouting? Notice the birds you might not have seen in awhile. Clean up trash that has blown into your yard. Pick up sticks. You may find that you have lots of things to do.

Start a garden journal

Are your daffodils and hyacinths usually farther along by now? And those things in the corner– are they plants or weed?

Keeping observations about your garden in a journal can help you with questions like these.

See how this Cheektowaga gardener keeps track of his plants.

Weeding

If your soil is thawed, you can do some weeding. The ground is probably still soft, so don’t step on it. If you do, you can compact the soil, which is bad for the plants. If you have garden beds along a driveway, sidewalk or path, pull whatever weeds you can reach.

Whoops! Don’t rake

UPDATE: I had originally suggested you could rake now, but Pamela A. Moore, Master Gardener, let me know that raking in March could harm bees.

She cites the article “Bring Back the Bees” on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website site that states: “Because most queens overwinter in small holes on or just below the ground’s surface, avoid raking, tilling or mowing your yard until April or May. If you do need to mow, do so with the mower blade set at the highest safe level.”

“In my Master Gardener class we were told to avoid raking until we ACTUALLY observed bees flying about,” Moore said. “Other sources state that there should be no raking until there have been SUSTAINED temperatures above 50 degrees. Personally, I follow the temperature guidelines combined WITH observation. That is the best way to know that you are not unintentionally disturbing the queen bees that spend the winter in small holes ON or just below the surface.

“I applaud spending time outside as we all spend more time home, but please let’s not contribute to the problem of a diminishing population of bees. Photography or observing your gardens, sketching and planning new gardens is a much better idea.”

Thanks for the information, Pamela Moore!

Get pansies and set them outside

pansies with rain drops in Amherst
Pansies are cool weather annuals that can tolerate cold temperatures and even snow. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses will have pansies ready on the first day of spring, March 19.

You don’t even have to go to the garden center to buy them– Mischler’s will deliver!

You have to make a purchase of at least $30, and there is a delivery fee. Other things you can have delivered from Mischler’s are bonsai, houseplants, hanging baskets of indoor plants, succulent mini-gardens and fresh floral arrangements. See their delivery area here.

Pansies are a cool weather annual. They don’t mind cool temperatures and they can tolerate some frost.

It’s still a little early to plant them in the ground, but you can set a pot of pansies outside. If it looks like we’re going to get very cold temperatures, you can bring the pot inside.

Pre-order plants in Great Plant Sale

Make sure you don’t miss out on wonderful perennials and annuals in the Great Plant Sale being held by the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

You can pre-order now, and the deadline to order is April 10.

Don’t put it off; some popular plants sell out early.

Re-conect your rain barrel

While there are some freezing temperatures in the extended weather forecast, it looks like there will be enough mild weather that you wouldn’t have to worry about the water in your rain barrels freezing. (If the water inside the rain barrel freezes, it expands and can crack the barrel.)

Order rain barrels, compost bins

Don’t have a rain barrel? You can order rain barrels and compost bins in the Erie County sale. It’s held in partnership with the Western New York Stormwater Coalition, the City of Buffalo and the Town of Wheatfield.

The deadline to order is May 1.

(If you buy the Earth Machine compost bin, I personally recommend you also get the rodent screen. It’s like a floor for the bin that keeps critters from digging their way into the compost.)

Start cool weather vegetables from seed

You can start seeds inside now for cool weather vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and lettuces.

It’s too early to start seeds indoors for vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers.

In this article, find out why starting your seeds too early is worse than starting them too late and get more details on cool weather vegetables.

Clean out your garage or shed

This is something you’re not going to want to do when the weather is gorgeous out, so you might as well do it now.

Get rid of things that are broken. Organize your pots and tools.

Walk around your neighborhood or in a park

You will feel less cooped up. I got a delightful surprise when I saw snowdrops in a neighbor’s front yard. (See the photo at the beginning of this article.) Delightful!

New York State will waive all park fees in state, local and county parks. Parks are open, but restrooms may be closed.

Remember to keep social distancing. You can stop and talk with people you meet, but you might want to keep a distance of three feet between you. UPDATE: Keep six feet apart. See more here.

If kids are using playground equipment, take appropriate precautions with wipes and hand sanitizer.

Read past articles

Browse through our past articles so you can:

  • Plan your garden.
  • Get inspiration from wonderful gardens on garden walks and Open Gardens.
  • See how to deal with deer or other pests.
  • Look at pretty pictures.

See all the topics here.

Share your ideas

What are your ideas for garden-related activities that we can do now?

'

24 Comments on “Gardening things you can do now despite the COVID-19 cancellations

  1. Hi I noticed white scales on my dogwood tree. Is this something to be worried about?
    Thanks

  2. Hello everyone! I saw a bee last Thursday in Springville! Soon! I can’t wait to rake my garden especially after the beautiful day yesterday.

  3. Karen, it’s so wonderful to see those first plants making their appearances. It sounds like yours are doing it in a spectacular way!

  4. I also did not know about the bees and did some raking, but know for the future. Just couldn’t pass up the warmer weather and getting out into the garden! Love this time of year when everything starts popping up. My Lenten Rose is spectacular. My husband thought I put artificial flowers in my flower bed!

  5. Thanks Connie for some great ideas. Didn’t know about raking and bees, learned something new, unfortunately I did some lawn raking. Going to cut back some perennials today and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Keep healthy all

  6. Good morning, all!
    There are a lot of things that can (and some that shouldn’t) be done in our gardens to get ready for the spring season, here are just a couple of my thoughts:
    This is a great time of the year to finish pruning fruiting trees, grapevines, and raspberries. Apply a dormant oil spray to fruit trees when temperatures are above 40°F.
    It is ok to prune summer-blooming shrubs (including Buddleia) now, but wait to prune spring-blooming shrubs until after they flower.
    Cut back ornamental grasses to several inches above ground level.
    Wait to uncover rose bushes until the end of the month.
    Don’t divide spring blooming perennials until after they bloom (the primrose question.)
    Sharpen your garden tools and then wipe them down with vegetable or canola oil to prevent rust.
    Do cut a few branches to force from spring-blooming shrubs and trees, such as forsythia, pussywillow, and crabapple for a bit of spring indoors!

  7. I respectfully request that you amend your post and eliminate the suggestion people rake. It is potentially VERY HARMFUL to bees.
    Per the article, “Bring Back the Bees”, on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website site, it states, “Avoid raking, tilling or mowing until April or May.” In my Master Gardener class we were told to avoid until we ACTUALLY observed bees flying about. Other sources state that no raking until there have been SUSTAINED temperatures above 50 degrees. Personally, I follow the temperature guidelines combined WITH observation. That is the best way to know that you are not unintentionally disturbing the Queen Bees that spend the winter in small holes ON or just below the surface.

    I applaud spending time outside as we all spend more time home, but please let’s not contribute to the problem of a diminishing population of bees. Photography or observing your gardens, sketching and planning new gardens is a much better idea. Thank you.

  8. Cheryl, snowdrops aren’t native. You can buy the bulbs to plant, but they also spread by seed. Someone may have planted the bulbs there or they may have started from seed.

  9. All great ideas, Connie and follow the “social distancing” rule. Even an hour would do wonders. Thank you!

  10. Could someone tell me the name of the flower in the first photo (small white flowers) . Photo by Connie Oswald Stofto. Thank you!

  11. Wow Connie, you always seem to answer my questions. I was about to start my cherry tomatoes seeds but I guess I’ll wait. Out to clean my gardens! I actually started weeding a few weeks back – every chance I get on a nice day I weed some. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *