I'm barely a gardener toddler because this is only my third year of gardening.

It's been an especially unusual year, given the COVID-19 cornonavirus pandemic.

For the first time since we moved to Hilliard, I'm working full time at home and handling rambunctious, over-eager twins with the help of my husband.

Starting my garden was more difficult this year, but the task seems even more critical than before. It provides a powerful link to the world outside, and the 4-by-8 security blanket hopefully will continue to provide food for our family.

I'm not alone with these thoughts. The usually steady garden-supply industry has been deluged with folks interested in starting -- or intensifying -- a garden.

If this crisis grows a greater appreciation of the magic that's hiding under our lawns, then there might be a sliver of a silver lining in the difficulties of the past months.

The pandemic struck just as gardeners began to venture outdoors to plant cool-season crops, such as lettuce and kale, in the morning chill of late March and early April.

March is a wonderful time to gently wake the garden and finish any necessary pruning of landscape bushes and brambles.

The Franklin Park Conservatory has several excellent videos at fpconservatory.org/explore/virtual-experiences/gardening/. They explain the ins and outs of designing and growing an edible garden, pruning and planting. While some of this advice is a couple of weeks out of season, it's never too early to prepare for next year.

So what is there to do now? It's important throughout April to allow the sun to warm and dry the soil, spurring early-season growth in any perennial plants in your landscape. This also gives beneficial native insects that overwinter in the soil and plants time to emerge.

The Ohio State University Extension-Fairfield County office advises that mulching early can keep soils too cold and moist, opening the door for disease and stunting.

This can be read at fairfield.osu.edu/news/we-all-love-mulch-take-care-not-misuse-it.

May is for mulching, an important addition to the garden, which can suppress weed growth and keep soils moist as the temperatures rise.

As the soil continues to warm from mid-May to June, heat-loving vegetables -- tomatoes, melons and cucumbers -- can be planted.

Soil temperature is a critical aspect to understanding when to plant, and a good resource to track it is OSU's weather system website, oardc.ohio-state.edu/weather1/stationinfo.asp?id=14. Many plants, like cucumbers and beans, need to be started outside as seeds in warm soils of 50, 60, or even 75 degrees.

Working the soil in this difficult time has given me a sense of focus and purpose, strengthening my connection to the cycles of life.

I'm growing optimism in my garden. Every day I step into my garden with my kids, I'm saying that I believe in a strong, healthy, happy and connected future.

Maggie Willis is a member of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Committee. The Eye on the Environment column is submitted by the commission.