Get thee outdoors and breathe in that fresh air

Influenza patients get sunlight at the Camp Brooks open-air hospital in Boston during the 1918 flu pandemic. 

 Dear readers, I don’t need to tell you how much comfort gardening can be in a time like this. The rules of social interactions have changed, but the “rules” of gardening remain the same. And I have to wonder, since gardeners are accustomed to dealing with the quirks of nature, if they aren’t also better adapted to coping with the almost-daily changes in lifestyle and proper mask procedures handed down by government officials.

While I find myself tuning in less often to national and international news, I gratefully tap into our local media, particularly KMXT’s “Lowdown” updates.

At any rate, we don’t need to be told that gardening is good for our physical, mental and emotional health. We know that already. I hope you are able to get out in your garden and enjoy all its benefits.

If you need an excuse to go outside (and who doesn’t with quarantine and isolation still in effect), start with taking a tour of your yard and garden with clipboard in hand and a cellphone in your pocket. Note any problems that need to be addressed, changes you want to make, terrific ideas you get just by looking. Take a look (and photos) here and here for examples. 

If you can see dirt (i.e., no snow left) and can pull the weeds out of it, go ahead and weed. It’s mud season and you aren’t supposed to stand on waterlogged soil, so stand on the lawn and weed whatever you can reach from there. Actually, you’re not supposed to stand on a waterlogged lawn, either (because it compacts it, restricting the flow of air, water and nutrients), but I won’t tell if you don’t.

Weeds happily grow under the snow, so they’ve already got a head start. And if you’re the type to kneel when you weed, better wear waterproof rain plants and Xtratufs.

Speaking of weeds, have you heard of soil solarization, the age-old method of using the sun’s power to control pests such as bacteria, insects and weeds in the soil? This all ties in with the current crisis. Let me explain, with a little history lesson.

We’re still hearing of governments enforcing quarantine and isolation, and public gatherings being discouraged. It almost seems normal now. But did you know that health officials took the same approach 100 years ago, when influenza was spreading around the world? Overall, the results from isolation were mixed. But records from the 1918 pandemic suggest one, little-known technique for dealing with influenza was effective.

Medics of the day found that when severely ill flu patients were nursed outdoors, they recovered better than those treated indoors. According to public health records, a combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths among patients as well as infections among medical staff.

Research shows that outdoor air is, how should I say, a natural disinfectant. Fresh air can kill the flu virus and other harmful germs. Equally, sunlight is germicidal and there is now evidence it can kill the flu virus.


During the great pandemic of 1918, seriously ill patients that were taken outside and put in the sun to experience open-air therapy as it was called. The treatments were effective. One report said it reduced deaths among hospital patients from 40% to about 15%.

So get thee outdoors. Breathe in that fresh air. And when clouds part, treat yourself to a daily, 10-minute sun bath. 

While you’re trying to stay healthy, how about food? It’s your first medicine, right? When your immune system is compromised, you are more likely to get sick.

Studies have proven that excess consumption of the following foods can compromise your immune response, making infections more likely:

Processed foods

Foods and drinks high in sugar

Refined carbohydrates

Alcoholic beverages

So, if you eat a lot of foods and beverages that are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, you may be reducing your body’s ability to ward off disease.

Eating a well-rounded diet high in pretty, colorful veggies and fruits will give your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to fight off illness. For Kodiak, that would include salad greens, broccoli, raspberries, carrots, kale, wild blueberries, Swiss chard — you get the idea.

Eat fresh garlic, too. It’s particularly good for your immune system. 

Finally, the weather guessers say that it’s going to be pretty wet for the foreseeable future. Which means sun baths might be on hold for a while. Still, there’s a lot to do: Clean your garden tools, collect rainwater for watering plants, tend your seedlings, and while eating healthy, try a new recipe or two. 

Yours in happiness and health and happiness.



Vegetables to start from seed: cauliflower kale, broccoli.

Flowers and herbs to start from seed: nasturtiums, marigolds.

Seedling care: To prevent seedlings from getting leggy, keep them 3 inches below the grow-lights. Don’t let seedlings dry out, and set up a small fan to circulate air 24/7.


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