Social distancing and living in quarantine has brought a resurgence in puzzles, board games, and cooking. Another past-time that is sure to be popular this spring and summer is gardening. It can be a relaxing recreational activity that gets you outside in the sunshine soaking up some vitamin D. Of course, if you have two left thumbs instead of a "green thumb" it may not be so relaxing. So, here's five helpful gardening tips with help from our friends at Blain's Farm & Fleet.

1. Clean up and repair any winter damage.
Take a walk around your yard and look for any damage from the winter weather. Pick up broken branches. Rake up the dead leaves and any other debris. It's also a good time to sharpen your garden tools before you start working on the soil and plants.

  1. Water and fertilize the soil.

After a long winter, your soil will most likely be dried out. What "Mother Nature" doesn't take care of with spring-time showers...you can supplement with a watering can or garden hose and add some moisture. You can also add manure, compost or fertilizers to give the soil some much needed nutrients.

  1. Prune old plants.

This is where the sharpened garden tools come in handy. Prune any diseased or dead branches on plants and shrubs. Remember that some trees and shrubs have different pruning seasons, so you don’t want to prune them at the wrong time of the year.

  1. Add mulch to your landscaping or garden.

Adding mulch is one my favorite things I use to enhance my yard's landscaping. Plus, mulch helps your bushes and flowers or plants in your garden retain moisture and maintain temperature. It also helps prevent disease.

  1. Plant new seeds and wait patiently.

Now's the time to grab a hoe (or borrow your neighbor's rototiller) and start turning some soil in your garden and start planting seeds. Make sure to check your seed packet, optimum seed planting in northern Iowa is usually early to mid-May.  If you’re working in a vegetable garden, you can start early with slow-growing plants like peas and lettuce. Popular spring plants for a flower garden include lilacs, tulips, pansies and snapdragons.

Gardening is a great way to take your mind off everything that is going on in our world and spend some time with nature. Maintaining your garden from day to day and watching your plants grow can be very rewarding.  It's also a great way to get the kids involved in something that doesn't include staring at a screen. However, if your kids are like mine, once the heat and the bugs kick in, and they figure out gardening can take a little "manual labor", they'll bail out on you quickly. Which is fine, then it's just you and "Mother Nature" enjoying the fruits of your labor.

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