Welcome to Life & Style’s Quarantine Diaries! In this series, NBN writers share skills or hobbies they’ve picked up since being stuck in quarantine.

Let’s face it: we all need an excuse to go outside (responsibly) right now. And one of the best excuses to go outside is *drumroll* planting a garden! Ok, I know it’s not exactly riveting. But for me, there’s something deeply therapeutic about watching a little sprout grow into something beautiful over time. It doesn’t matter if you’re planting in a flower bed on your front lawn or in a tiny window box — you can make space for greenery anywhere.

First, you need to choose your plants. Right now, you want to pick things that will bloom or grow out in the summer. My go-to’s are annual flowers, which are essential for creating a more arresting display. Herbs are also easy to take care of and smell so good. Plus, they make me feel resourceful and self-sufficient, even though I never end up using them in my cooking.

So what to pick? I have a few personal favorites to suggest. Begonias are a great addition to any garden, and their bright pink/magenta hues will spice up any boring pot. If you’re not very confident in your green thumb, mint is a classic choice that will not die no matter what horrors you subject it to –it’s basically a weed that smells good. Basil always goes all-out in the heat, no effort required, and it’s objectively the best herb (in my opinion). Lantanas have lively, warm blooms, and they 👏 pop 👏 off in the summer, especially if you live somewhere warm. Not to mention butterflies get seriously hooked on this stuff.

But there are multitudes of other options that grow well right now, so don’t feel limited. You can pick anything you want. For the pots I wanted to fill in my backyard, I went to a grocery store and bought some gorgeous crimson geraniums, purple lobelias (go ‘Cats), rosemary and sweet potato vine (creepers like potato vine are great for filling up space, and they’re totally low-maintenance). I also grabbed a few extras along the way — it’s always hard for me to resist.

I took my haul home and got to work. It was time to plant — the best part. But you have to be careful. Now that the sunlight is starting to creep back up to its summertime strength, some plants can be seriously damaged or even killed by its rays (no matter how much water you give them!). If your new friends were grown in a greenhouse or out of direct sunlight, you may need to get them gradually accustomed to full sun over time.

Try moving their pot into a safely shaded area outside for a while, or moving them into direct sunlight for only an hour or so each day, and keep them well hydrated. Eventually they’ll be ready to take the heat.

When planting, always dig as deep as you can. You want those roots to be really snug. Be sure to pack in the dirt when you’re finished and give it a good watering—this’ll help the roots settle in and keep the plant hydrated while it adjusts to its new environment.

And that’s it! You’re finished. Your plants may look kind of scrappy when you first put them in (mine certainly did), but let them fill out and you’ll have a robust little family in no time.

When things are spinning out of control, it can be empowering to create a little piece of the world where you can make something wonderful happen. Gardening is perfect for that. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. Happy digging!