Do you hear that? The sound of bees buzzing, birds calling, wind rustling through the trees? Or is it more like the TV buzzing, people calling, and cars bustling down the road? Right now we are all stuck in this Twilight Zone-esque period where we must stay in our homes without any real sense of when we will be able to leave. Time doesn’t really seem to exist. We’re bored and frustrated. We cannot go to work or school, or see our friends and family. Zoom and FaceTime is our only form of connection to other humans. Cabin fever and the feelings of isolation seem to be growing stronger everyday…
The world outside has remained the same. The flowers have continued blooming, the spring babies are emerging from their eggs and nests, and the sky remains blue. Nature hasn’t come to a complete halt like the rest of us.
Ok… so? You might be asking what that has to do with you and your current state of isolation. Only the best news! Nature happens to quite literally be a natural stress reliever. There have been hundreds of studies done to see how our mood changes when we venture outdoors, or how a simple plant in a hospital room can help its patients to feel better. Nature reduces our stress and anger, it helps us alleviate and cope with pain, and it allows us to feel refreshed and invigorated. So whether you have a single sunny spot by a window, a balcony, a patio, or a whole sprawling backyard behind your house, here are some ways that you can add nature to your home and feel a whole heck of a lot better.
A Window Spot:
My best friend from college, Deb, lives on the 5th floor of a one bedroom apartment in the tireless Upper West Side of Manhattan New York. Although the city is currently on lock down, she makes time to go for daily nature walks through both Central Park and Riverside Park and always sends her bird observations and adorable snaps of chipmunks stuffing their cheeks with tree buds my way. When she is not outside taking time to de-stress among the trees and wildlife, she is home taking care of her own patch of nature inside of her apartment. She has a small northwest facing window overlooking the sprawling street of Broadway and she fills her available space with plants! Cacti, succulents, and herbs of all sizes take up her window sill and bedside table. It’s like a little green oasis in the middle of New York City. She gets her plants from local shops or garden centers and plants them in charming little pots and jars.
“I’m not able to get outside to a park everyday, so having plants in my own apartment helps to keep me feeling positive and boosts my mood.” – Deborah Carlin
If you live in a small space and want to add some plants to it, first figure out if you have a spot that gets any sunlight during the day and how much. Then do some research on the types of plants that you are interested in taking care of and figure out if they would do well in that spot. Visit a garden store and ask questions! The plant experts will be happy to help you discover something perfect for your space. If you do not get any sunlight no worries! There are plants that thrive indoors even without it. Check out these 7 houseplants for low light conditions.
A Balcony Ledge:
Do you have a little bit more than a window to work with? Maybe you have a small balcony attached to a fire escape, or even a small terrace or deck. If so, your options for bringing nature home are growing! Try hanging a planter box on your railing and plant a few flowers to enjoy. Maybe you’ll attract some local pollinators! Check out these fun balconys in Europe –
One thing I make sure to plant every year, no matter the amount of space I have, is an herb garden. I love to cook, and fresh herbs make cooking a homemade meal even better. They also smell delightful. They are relatively easy plants to care for and would grow fabulously on a balcony. Check out my little basil plant hanging out on my kitchen windowsill right now! On warmer days I move it outside to my deck to soak up the sunshine, and once the weather remains warm it’ll stay out there for the summer. If you are just starting the herb planting process, try 2 or 3 types at first and add more as you are able to care for them. Most require 4-6 hours of sunlight per day and regular watering. And the best part is, when the temperatures start to drop in the fall you can harvest and dry your herbs for cooking throughout the year!
Some herbs are also where certain types of butterflies like to lay their eggs! Parsley, dill, and fennel are all lovely tasting herbs but are also host plants for the Black Swallowtail butterfly. Last summer I had a small potted parsley plant in my tiny city backyard and was ecstatic to see a little Black swallowtail caterpillar munching along on it’s leaves one day (look at him on the left, isn’t he neat??). I was careful not to move him and was still able to pick enough parsley for myself to enjoy on spaghetti and leave some for him to eat too!
A Patio Plot:
If you are lucky to have an outdoor patio, porch, or small plot of land, boy do you have some awesome nature opportunities! Our very own DelNature Event and Engagement Coordinator, Aaron Sharp, lives in a townhouse in Wilmington’s Trolley Square neighborhood with his partner Nathan Stewart who is the Perennial Buyer and Manager at Gateway Garden Center in Hockessin. Although they don’t have a huge space to work with, they have created several gardens and natural areas outside of their house, each one teeming with life and its very own personality!
In the small section between the sidewalk and street they created a lovely spot for colorful Hyacinths and Alliums and even built a native bee hotel using a stump, a wood frame, and bamboo!
Out back they have created a gorgeous woodland garden in a shady spot beneath a deck with Virginia bluebells, coral bells, columbine, mint, aucuba, ferns and hostas. Look at how lush this little spot is!
They even found space between their brick walkway and patio chairs to plant vegetables! They’ve got kale, lettuce, broccoli, sweet peas, tomatillos and dill all planted back there!
If you have a space like Aaron and Nathan but are unsure how to add nature to it, browse one of our previous Native Plant Sale catalogs to find plants that could do well in the space that you have. This year our plant sale will be online and you can order plants here from May 6-11! Let us know if you have any plant questions or need some suggestions for your garden!
A Whole Yard:
If you have a yard, your nature possibilities are almost endless! There are tons of gardening books and ideas out there on the web, but my top three tips for designing a nature filled yard is to plant native plants, provide shelter such as a bird house for animals, and try to limit your use of pesticides and herbicides. Take a look at some of our gardening tips and how you can turn your yard into a certified wildlife habitat!
If you are interested in turning your property into an oasis of native plants, butterflies, wildlife, and birds, consider taking the Delaware Nature Society on-line class “Becoming Nature’s Best Hope“, which teaches about how to take Dr. Doug Tallamy’s ideas in his book “Nature’s Best Hope” so that you can put them into practice on your property.
Comment below with what kind of spot you have and how you have added nature to it! Is there a certain plant or nature activity that helps you relieve stress? We would love to hear about it 🙂