Plants and the Pandemic

Written by Karma Glos of Kingbird Farm

The pansies have run amuck. They are my most pernicious weed. The clematis have burned in the drought, but may have a second chance to bloom this fall. The salvias are blazing their nectar advertisement to the hummingbirds and basking in the heat. The tomatoes are starting to show new growth after finally getting established in the dry soil. Some plants struggle this season, some persist and bloom, just like us.

Over the last three months as I have grown and prepared plants for market, I have had a lot of time to think about their worth. Not their monetary worth, though that is essential to a sustainable business, but their emotional worth. As the virus spread and our worlds got smaller, our gardens became refuges of normality. All of our gardens: houseplants on a windowsill, patio planters, back yards, or immense vegetable plots. Every day as the world outside changed into something unrecognizable, our plants just kept growing. The bees kept collecting and the caterpillars kept munching. The growth and eventual flowering and fruiting of our plants became a natural compass to steer by. The world is so strange, but damn don’t the salvias look great!

Enthusiasm for plants has always been strong in our Ithaca community, but this season it felt like a need. People needed plants, they needed the stability and familiarity. At the plant sale, the farmers market, or at our farm greenhouse folks came early and often. They wanted veggie starts for that self-sufficient food garden; they wanted flowers for the joy; and if a garden wasn’t an option, houseplants of all sorts found new homes.

Even now in July, desire for new plants has not subsided. Just to get out of the house, customers stop by every so often and pick up a new plant. A drive in the country or a foray to the farmers market are welcome escapes. Even here on our farm, we have gardened more aggressively than ever before. With no social gatherings, the garden becomes our community. We like to check-in every evening to see who is blooming, who needs a stake, or perhaps who has succumbed to flea beetles. Doting on the garden is a luxury, a privilege, even for farmers. The garden is pure pleasure, complete escape, and very nourishing in these times. The plants will keep us grounded. They need our care, and they give us so much. Fortunately for all of us our community is awash with dedicated, knowledgeable growers who can provide the plants and the guidance to grow them. You can never have too many plants, especially in times like these.

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