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Things to Do in the Garden While You’re Social-Distancing


Now is a great time throughout most of the country to plant your cool-season seeds, including radishes, carrots, lettuce, and spinach! Avalon_Studio / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Alone in the garden is one of the best places to be if you’re social-distancing during the coronavirus outbreak. Lots of gardening jobs can be done this time of year, including some new projects you might have put off because you weren’t home long enough to tackle them.

Start a vegetable garden

Starting a vegetable garden is high on the coronavirus-hideout list. Panic-buying at grocery stores has prompted some to consider that it’s not a bad idea to be more self-sufficient when it comes to food. Plus, it’s a way to save money on maximum-nutrition produce and grow options that aren’t widely available at grocery stores.

April is an excellent time to plant an existing vegetable garden or to dig a new one. Cool-season seeds, such as peas, radishes, lettuce, spinach, carrots, kale, and kohlrabi, as well as onion sets, potatoes, and transplants of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce all can be planted in April in most of the United States. In warm climates, summer crops, such as beans, tomatoes, and peppers, can go in the ground.

Early spring is also a good time to clean up the yard, including picking up fallen branches, raking excess leaves, and cutting back last season’s dead ornamental grasses and perennial foliage. Overgrown perennials also can be dug and divided now. The exceptions are ones that already are blooming or setting flower buds in preparation to bloom. Those are best divided after bloom or in early fall.


Starting seeds indoors is a great way to prepare for your summer garden, and you can get your kids involved too! photographer / iStock / Getty Images Plus


One of the biggest jobs that can be done now is pruning. Early spring is the best time to prune shrubs that bloom in summer to early fall, such as abelia, beautyberry, butterfly bush, potentilla, roses, rose-of-sharon, shrub dogwoods, Japanese spirea, St. Johnswort, summersweet, and vitex.

Wait until after bloom to prune shrubs that bloom in spring, such as azalea, beautybush, spring-blooming clematis, cotoneaster, deutzia, forsythia, lilac, mock orange, mountain laurel, ninebark, pieris, rhododendron, viburnum, Virginia sweetspire, and weigela.

A special note about hydrangeas, as different species should be pruned at different times. For example, both native smooth hydrangeas and panicle hydrangeas should be pruned early in spring before they bloom. In contrast, mophead and oakleaf hydrangeas should be pruned after they bloom. If you’re not sure which type you have, we recommend a quick visit to This is an excellent resource with pictures that should help. 

April is also good timing to prune shade trees as well as to trim evergreen shrubs, including holly, boxwoods, junipers, falsecypress, yews, arborvitae, and nandina.

Pruning Hydrangea

Now is the perfect time for pruning. Practice social-distancing by pruning your shrubs and trees in your landscape. percds / iStock / Getty Images Plus

What else?

Other yard jobs that can be done now include: edging the garden beds; raking debris off the lawn; yanking weeds and putting down Preen weed-preventer to head off new weeds; seeding or overseeding bare or thinning areas of the lawn, and fertilizing the lawn.

While you’re out there, inspect the landscape for winter damage and make plans for what replacements and improvements you’d like to make this year.

Even if you can’t get to a garden center now to buy the plants, you’ll be ready to roll when the lockdowns lift. Or mail-order your plants, as a lot of gardeners are doing this year – many for the first time.

If that’s not enough to keep you busy for a while, here are more virus-beating garden ideas from the National Garden Bureau.

  • Try your hand at starting seeds. This is a good project for out-of-school kids.
  • Take an online class. Lots of options – both for beginners and advanced special-topics – are available by search. Or go the freebie route and search out YouTube instructional videos on topics that interest you.
  • Catch up on your reading. Dig out those garden books and magazines you’ve never had time to read. Or revisit some of your past favorites. You might be newly inspired.
  • Give your houseplants some TLC. Groom, snip, and/or repot the houseplants. Try your hand at taking cuttings to make “starts” to give away later to friends – another project the kids might like.

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