In our pre-quarantine lives, the spring season likely meant being slammed with work obligations, end-of-school events and exams, sports tournaments and more. However, now that we are sheltering in place, there are few better ways to make the best of unexpected free time than by enhancing your outside space.
Like many local families, Melissa and Jason Blanchette, owners of Anderson’s Garden Center in Virginia Beach and Newport News, have found a silver lining in a COVID-19 world. Now that the weather has turned temperate, they’ve been enjoying a lot of quality time with their three young daughters in their yard, so they want to make that area as beautiful as they can.
“Kids and adults will appreciate a space even more if they have a part in improving and building it,” says Melissa Blanchette. “Plus, building the space together makes for a great bonding experience and a lasting memory. It’s more fun to cook with herbs, veggies and fruit that you actually grew. It’s even sweeter to watch a hummingbird or a butterfly enjoy the nectar from the flower you planted. Make the most of this extra time with family by making the most of the space you’re surrounded with.”
It’s time to breath some fresh air, boost your mood and celebrate spring renewal. These six easy spring backyard projects will get you started.
Begin with a Seasonal Spruce
Melissa Lee, nursey manager at Coastal Landscapes and Nursery in Virginia Beach, recommends kicking things off by doing some clean up around your yard including pruning, weeding, mulching and fertilizing your gardens. Adding some amendments, like mushroom compost, can get the ground ready for planting.
Some of Lees’ favorite plants are little lime hydrangeas, bicolor iris, kaleidoscope abelia, drift roses, emerald green arborvitaes and chindo viburnum. She says these are hardy plants that anyone can use to make their yards look beautiful or offer them privacy.
Build a Container Garden
Blanchette suggests container gardening because it’s quick, easy and takes up only a small area. For vegetables and fruits, she advises using a pot that is at least 12 inches wide and has a drain hole. Fill with raised bed soil and put in your choice of one veggie or fruit plant per pot—tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers zucchini and strawberries all work well—along with some Espoma Organic Garden Tone.
You can plant up to four herbs—cilantro, basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, etc.—in a 12-inch-wide container, but ensure it has good drainage, and don’t forget the quality soil.
Upcycle Forgotten Treasures
Searching for things you might have around your house can inspire a garden project, says Katie Plummer, marketing and communications director for Jack Frost Landscapes & Garden Center in Virginia Beach. She proposes creating a pallet garden with old wood you have lying around the garage, improving your patio or porch with hanging baskets made with popsicle sticks and old food containers (i.e. all the ones you can no longer locate the lids for) or constructing a terrarium planter with small plants and miscellaneous household or yard items—seashells, rocks, pieces of driftwood, etc.
Plan a Stone Project
Investing in some stones or pavers of your choice can lead to many more modest outdoor plans other than a full-blown patio. Think about an alluring stone path, welcoming bench or simple water feature that can all be completed in a day or less. For some insight, begin by checking out some DIY blogs hosted by local garden centers or browse Pinterest or Instagram.
Create a Kids’ Corner
Children love having a special backyard space they helped execute. The Blanchettes say they know lots of families that have had success using their imaginations to create a fairy garden in either a container or area of an existing bed. Simply add glass beads, charcoal, colored sand, small pebbles, kids’ choice of figures and mini, three-inch “fairy plants.”
Succulents and cactus plants are also inexpensive and easy for children to care for. Choose a sunny spot to place your container that is at least 12-inches wide and has good drainage. Fill with a cactus and succulent potting mix and add your favorite plants.
Plant A Pollinator Patch
Take the time to find a bright section of your yard for wildflowers or plants with a trumpet-shaped flower—lantana, milkweed, verbena—that not only looks wonderfully whimsical but will also attract pollinators if they bloom yellow or red. Remember to use a good organic granular root simulator and a good organic soil amendment, says Blanchette.
Before beginning any backyard project, it’s always recommended to check reputable resources like the Hampton Roads Agricultural Extension Center, Norfolk Botanical Garden and local nursery staff. Many garden centers, which are considered essential businesses, remain open to the public, but most also have online ordering options and curbside pick-up available.
We choose to work outdoors not just because we love the fresh air and getting our hands dirty but also because we love watching our work grow, says Lee of Coastal Landscapes. “In a time of stress, it’s nice to slow down outside and give yourself time to relax.”