With the stay-at-home order in effect throughout Washington state, there has been a resurgence of interest in victory gardens. Victory gardens began during World War I to protect against food shortages while farmers sent food to support the troops and allies on the frontlines. Food shortage anxiety, accompanied by anxiety of food cleanliness, during the COVID-19 pandemic has reignited backyard gardens as a form of self-sufficiency throughout Washington state and other parts of the country. According to NPR, there has been an increase in seed sales, causing some seed companies to only sell to farmers until they catch up.

The uptick in urban gardening is also a way that people are preserving sanity during quarantine. Watching seedlings sprout in your windowsill or garden reminds you that life goes on even though we are all stuck inside.

Studies have shown that gardening can be therapeutic for those that have undergone trauma, allowing them a way to work through their problems and recover. This time of COVID-19 is traumatic and being stuck inside prevents some people from being able to get their release through exercise or social interaction, leaving them feeling down. Gardening also allows people to channel their stress into caring for something other than themselves.

“Communing with the natural world increases people’s feelings of vitality and energy, and consequently has a large positive effect on their overall mental health,” according to the website of the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University. 

When I’m having a bad day and things aren’t going right for me, checking on my plants is a way to check in with myself, it’s my way of practicing self care. And eating something that I’ve grown myself, would add a lot of excitement to quarantine. 

An increase in urban gardening is something that a lot of environmentalists have been wanting for a long time because it allows people to learn more about the food they’re putting into their bodies and create a connection to the food they’re consuming. 

UW environmental studies professor Eli Wheat began growing seeds on his window sill in Seattle 12 years ago and now owns and operates a 20-acre farm on south Whidbey Island. 

“When you’re hungry, you go to the supermarket, but if you’re growing your own food, you have to be thinking two months out from when you’re going to be hungry,” Wheat said. 

In a dorm or an apartment, you have a limited amount of space and a limited amount of light, so growing sprouts and microgreens is a great option for individuals who might not have an outdoor space to plant things in. Sprouts offer a lot of nutrition, since seeds carry most of the life force of a plant. Along with microgreens, some of the easiest plants to grow aer arekale, beets, squash, and beans according to Wheat. That is — if you have the outdoor space to accommodate them.

Wheat recently purchased “Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening” to aid in his virtual teaching during the time of coronavirus.

“It’s a really neat way of thinking about how we might as individuals, in an urban space, really increase our own nutrition and source of fresh fruit and produce just coming from the actual windowsill itself,” Wheat said.

I attempted to grow green beans of my own in my dorm window sill, and they sprouted and grew maybe a foot tall, but they didn’t produce much else other than a few leaves because I didn’t have the right conditions. They wanted to be outside in the ground. I was genuinely surprised at the disappointment I felt when I realized I wouldn’t be able to try the green beans I grew myself. Traditionally, I’m a houseplant kind of gal and don’t really even enjoy growing plants for the sake of flowers, I love foliage. So I didn’t really think I’d become invested in them but the idea of eating something I had grown from myself became really exciting to me.

I definitely plan on growing microgreens and sprouts in my windowsill after learning more from Wheat. It seems simple enough and I can use them on sandwiches and in salads. Maybe one day I’ll get to eat produce I’ve grown myself. Supporting local farming through the business I frequent is definitely doable. It is something I will have to be intentional about incorporating, but it’s a small way I can contribute. If you have the ability to support a farm through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, I think it would be so fulfilling to have that connection to the farm and the produce. You know exactly how it was grown and how it arrived to you. 

I’ve always loved food, but I haven’t really thought about intentional eating and intentional connections to my food; now it’s all I can think about. If you’ve been thinking about growing your own produce during quarantine, now is the time to plant those seeds. 

Wheat recommends the “Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide” for beginners in gardening because it breaks down what you can plant by the month. It’s important to have a basic spreadsheet of when you need to plant things so that the produce you want to eat will actually grow in the conditions you give it.

Reach writer Iseabel Nance at pacificwave@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @iseabel

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