by SUSAN M. BRACKNEY
Adam Hamel always imagined gardening someday, but with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, someday arrived sooner than expected. “Everyone was stockpiling food and toilet paper,” Hamel recalls. “Not knowing how things were going to turn out in the next six months to a year, we thought this would be the perfect time to become more self-sufficient.”
The Stone Belt development manager and his fiancée fenced a 15-by-15-foot veggie patch and packed in some of everything. “Our biggest problem was we put some plants in places that weren’t great for them,” Hamel admits. “We were just kind of winging it.”
Despite some water-logged tomato plants, “leggy broccoli,” one scorched blueberry bush, and an errant groundhog, the rookies are already plotting this season’s much larger garden—complete with “more lettuce and fewer tomatoes.”
For his part, quarantining gardener Jerry Wright had let a bedraggled vegetable patch go fallow. “But when the pandemic hit and we were stuck at home, we decided, ‘Why don’t we get the garden going again?’ So, I reignited my old passion.”
The Indiana University political science professor relocated—and completely reconfigured—his garden. The fenced, 20-by- 30-foot area sports raised beds with new soil, an irrigation system, and trellised, vertical growing space.
To stay safe at home, Wright ordered eggplant and tomato starts by mail and sowed squash, cilantro, carrots, and chard, among others, by seed. “We had a really prolific pole bean that’s purple,” he says. “But, when you cook it, it turns green. They’re delicious!”
While Hamel’s garden helped to stretch his food budget, the jury’s still out on Wright’s. “I spent a lot of money on the garden last year,” he laughs. “By the time we bought all that stuff, we could’ve bought a lot of food at the farmer’s market. But, over the years, it may pay off.”
In some ways it already has. “Some of this stuff, you can’t get as fresh, and it’s very satisfying to do,” Wright says. “Every morning we go out to see what the garden needs. It’s especially fun in spring when you find out, ‘Are those seeds going to come up? Oh, there they are!’”
Wish you had a greener thumb? Visit Purdue Extension online at edustore.purdue. edu for a free seed-starting guide, Indiana vegetable planting calendar, and more.