Guest Column

Hands in the Dirt

Gardens boost morale and express patriotism as worldwide supply shortages pound away at our country’s sandy shores

By Mike Jopek

We’ve been working row. Getting ready for the growing season. 2022 holds a lot of promise. Hopefully the weather will be kind. Every season feels different, incessantly sprouting challenges and unfathomable opportunities. The rains have been nice.

National news makes it feels like a good year to grow extra vegetables on your home garden. Between worldwide shortages and notable price increases at the grocer, growing more of your own food offers a practical and economical way toward self-sufficiency and food security. 

Plus, you get to spend all that healthy time outdoors, in summer, in Montana. The outdoors is great for your health and unclogs the mind. Here’s to a season with clean, smoke-free air and some good old-fashioned rainy nights to boost the spirits. 

If the spring rains continue and it doesn’t freeze up too bad, the fresh greens will usher in the season. Won’t be long until home gardens throughout the valley produce plenty of leafy vegetables. Those arugulas and spring lettuces prefer the cold days.

Lots of home growers use floating crop fabrics to keep the nighttime freezes from doing too much early damage to young plants. Checking the hill reminds local gardeners to keep the tender plants guarded. There’s plenty of snow up on the mountains and those relentless northeast winds are brutal. 

Over the decades we’ve killed plenty of plants, sometimes after investing months of work. Every farmer I know has stories. And still, people who grow food, like to grow food. Those of us who get our hands in the dirt keep doing it over the years. 

We’re a big county, larger than some states, so local conditions at our farm are often dramatically different that what’s happening on garden plots throughout the valley. Last week a gardener friend reminded me that his soil was still frozen solid. Another said her ground held plenty of snow.

I walked into the center of the long hoophouse. The early veggies looked pretty good. The spinach and chois were behind, but the past weeks had produced several 9-degree nights. That’s cold. The days we spent preparing for the winter blast seemed to have paid off. Felt good.

Early greens have such vibrant colors. The ranges of green seem unreal, magical. Over the upcoming weeks greener fields will reappear in the northern part of the valley, on landscapes and lawns. Lower valley gardeners and farmers are way ahead.

No matter how much or where you grow food in the valley, plant some more. Grow extra greens. Start new seeds thought out the season and grow for half the year. 

Greens provide an easy avenue for someone whose been thinking of starting a small plot or a container garden. Start small but get going. A good wet spring will help grow plenty of garden variety for a household. 

There’s something about the dirt, being outdoors in all sorts of weather, and watching plants grow over time that calms planetary chaos and settles the individual mind. And who in the valley doesn’t want the nonsense to calm down? 

It’s a little nutty out there. Some lost their way and resorted to rudeness and meanness. The isolation of the pandemic proved unbearable. All of us could use more garden time to let the soil help sort it all out. Slow down. Get your arguing self away from the computer and into your garden. The dirt will ease the conflict.

Sow more seeds to victory. Start or grow a garden. Spend time outdoors. Bring the kids. They like worms and dirt. You’ll get plenty of veggies and know exactly what went into the fresh greens you eat. Gardens boost morale and express patriotism as worldwide supply shortages pound away at our country’s sandy shores. 

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