By Lee Stewart, Certified Master Gardener with Veg Up Get Dirty

The state of the world quickly and dramatically changed with COVID-19. It seems just a few weeks ago we were worried about the full moon and Friday the 13th being in the same week. Ah, good times.

If you have visited a grocery store recently, you have seen firsthand how fear has gripped our community and how rapidly what used to be normal daily life can now seem frightening and unfamiliar. I have been reminded once again how you always need to be prepared for the unexpected.

I have always been a firm believer in being proactive instead of reactive. Gardening and urban farming can be one effective way to truly be prepared. You can oversee your food supply and ensure that you have access to safe food, and know that in the future you will be ready for whatever happens.

Another advantage to growing your own food is that you don’t have to worry about entering the current chaos and dealing with fights over toilet paper. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have your own food supply in your own backyard, or on your patio or balcony? Having your own garden is possible, and right now is a wonderful time to start.

The recent rains have been beneficial for my own urban farm. The warm rays of sunshine provide assurance that springtime is here and is ready to provide for our gardens. The mild warm temperatures are a wonderful gift to gardeners! Now is the ideal time to prepare your yard, patio or balcony for your springtime planting. Get your space, soil, and irrigation ready to plant because picking fresh fruits and vegetables packed with 100 percent nutrients has many benefits.

Gardening also brings healthier eating, encourages exercise, and provides stress relief. I have found that I can find peace when working in my garden, and avoiding scrolling through all the distressing newsfeeds on social media and broadcast news. Gardening can become a very constructive and useful way to decrease anxiety and grapple with our “new normal” in the midst of a pandemic.

If you already have your own garden ready, there are specific seeds to plant in April. Green onions, radishes, carrots and cucumbers should go into the ground. In addition, cantaloupe, watermelon, summer squashes, and others can be started as plants. April is also harvest time for a lot of your winter vegetables. It is the month to transplant your tomatoes and get herb seeds in or plants transplanted.

I began Veg Up Get Dirty several years ago as an edible landscape company. I am a certified master gardener and mentor for the Maricopa Extension Program with the University of Arizona. Since starting my company, I have had the pleasure of assisting with gardens in Montessori schools, private residences of many kinds, offices, balconies, and more. I also offer gardening consultations, garden design, custom building of gardens, the servicing of existing gardens, and education.

I have implemented a gardening coaching service to teach individuals how to take control of their own gardens. You may wonder how this service works. First, I come out to the location and conduct a 90-minute assessment/consultation. During this assessment I look at your area to find the best placement of your garden, assess for amending needs for your already existing garden, and assess possible watering distribution to the garden. I will also provide information and education to help you and your garden become a healthy team.

It will be my absolute pleasure to join you on your gardening journey and help you grow your own food. Don’t panic! Go plant something in the dirt!