Good morning gardening friends,
What a weird time we are living in Portland Oregon. Since the end of February it has been day time highs in the 60s and in an unprecedented turn today we are having snow. Actual real snowfall that is sticking. It is soft, fluffy and stunningly beautiful. Though it does leave me wondering about the severity of our climate change situation.
With the rapid onset and spread of COVID-19 in Oregon our school systems, public library, and event venues have all shut down. Groups and gatherings for 250 or more have been banned statewide. Non-essential gatherings of 20 or more people are encouraged to cancel. The majority of people I know are telecommuting as their offices close. All of my community education gardening classes at Portland Community College and Mt Hood Community College have been cancelled through April. I've decided to cancel my gardening classes at Portland Nursery on March 22.
My primary workplace, Portland Community College continues to remain open while credit classes shift to online only. Therefore I will continue to work in my role as Learning Garden Coordinator as long as the campus remains opens. My husband works in a grocery store and he will continue to work as long as the store stays open. When you are working class you do not have the privilege of telecommuting.
As someone with a severely compromised immune system, multiple chronic illnesses including a lung condition, and actively taking immune suppressant medication I am in a very high risk category of people who would become very sick from COVID-19. This is a life threatening situation for me. People are dying. I am in daily close communication with my treatment team. I have witnessed mass hysteria and fighting in the grocery store as shelves were emptied in a frenzy. In my entire life I have never witnessed anything quite like that. The only surgical masks I could find online were $70 and when they arrived 10 days later they were unlabeled in an open ziplock bag. Clearly people are profiting from the pandemic. The stock market has crashed. I am trying to find a balance between limiting my exposure and full quarantine. The world feels completely turned upside down.
And yet, before the snow, and during the escalation of the COVID-19 situation I find serenity, purpose, and pure joy gardening in the sunshine on Thursday and hiking Hoyt Arboretum on Wednesday. I was aware of this weekend's forecast of snow and nighttime lows in the upper 20's, though I scarcely believed it. In my arrogance I laughed at the snow forecast. It didn't stop me from some March vegetable planting at the Cascade Learning Garden. In fact, in 9 raised beds I planted HUNDREDS of cool season vegetable plants. After they were watered in, sluggo applied, they were tucked in underneath frost blankets to wait out the cold this weekend.
The crops I planted this week included sugar snap peas, snow peas, leeks, scallions, cilantro, parsley, dill, chamomile, lettuce, kale, collards, spinach, chard, mustards, bok choy, broccoli and so much lettuce. Hopefully everyone survives the snow and cold overnight temperatures. Snow is actually an insulator so it can help plants in very cold weather.
In an earlier blog post I gave the ok to go ahead and start planting some of your cool season vegetable crops. Our daytime highs were consistently unusually high. Our average last frost in Portland is March 15. That has been the case for several years. I cannot believe it is now snowing on March 14. Let me say that one more time-it is SNOWING! So, if you headed my earlier go-ahead to start planting some of your cool season vegetables hopefully yesterday you covered them with a frost blanket.
Let's get back to my earlier comment about finding my happy place in the sunshine gardening while the fear and crisis of COVID-19 swarmed around in my community and in my own head. Nature is inherently healing. And research shows it. Having your bare hands in the soil boost serotonin levels in the brain, even a passive view of nature reduces blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension, and we all know the super powers of the sun on our skin producing vitamin D. Nature is a survivor and she teaches me I too will survive this crisis. I feel rooted, grounded, and connected via the seasonal rhythms of plants and wildlife. When the pandemic causes me stress, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty I find my equilibrium restored in the garden. Gardening will continue to be my sanctuary.
I encourage you to work in your garden solo or with your family while practicing social distancing. Go for a walk or hike on an uncrowded trail. Seek out wild and cultivated nature places. It is a poignant time for us all to embrace the healing power of nature. Take good care of yourselves and be well!