Guest Post: Winter Gardening

By: Ben Lindwall

Here in Minnesota, during the winter, there is only one way for a stay-at-home-dad to keep his sanity: grow something.

I’ve been gardening for a little over 5 years but have just recently come to realize the offseason benefits of growing food in the winter. As we speak, I’ve got some young spinach, arugula, lettuce, and chard sprouting up underneath my plastic row covers in the backyard (and today’s high in Minneapolis is sixteen degrees Fahrenheit)!

I planted at the end of October, so come the end of March I will have bagfuls of greens to feed my family. If you tend to eat one 12 oz bag of greens in a week, this will save you between $15-$20 a month– even more if you like cooking with greens, in which case you can double or triple your savings at the market.

More importantly, many of us are completely disconnected from knowing who is growing, harvesting, and transporting our food. As a result, many of us eat food that is grown from depleted and over-fertilized soil, lathered in pesticides, picked by exploited workers, and then driven across the country, if not further. This is absolutely unacceptable.

I grow and harvest my greens and my daughter carries them into the house (in return, I let her eat for free). And speaking of kids, have you ever heard a toddler ask for spinach? Well try growing it yourself. While I water the garden, my daughter will ask for leaf after gorgeous green leaf!

Do I really think that gardening is going to make any difference? Totally. As I till my soil, pull weeds, and taste my own produce, I become much more conscious and connected to the process of growing food. It doesn’t just magically appear. There is actual work involved. I try to take this new consciousness with me to the market. It affects which products I buy and makes me think twice before supporting massive agribusinesses with my grocery budget. I love how Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen put it in their book The Urban Homestead: “Growing your own food is an act of resistance. We can all join [] in dismantling the corporations that are feeding us shit.”

Start with spinach. It’s easy to grow and is packed with nutrition. Plant the seed ¼ of an inch below the soil and keep it moist until it sprouts. Pay attention to what else might begin to sprout. Let your curiosity lead you. Its amazing how one new beginning can lead to another, as well as lots of learning along the way.

I planted my first seed before I had kids and for purely selfish reasons. Today I garden for peace of mind, family nutrition, and even justice. For me, this is especially important in the middle of Minnesota, in the middle of December.

Ben lives in Minneapolis MN, with his wife and two kids and is a stay at home dad and life long Twins fans. That means he has to suffer through great seasons only to lose to the Yankees in the playoffs every year. Along with gardening Ben brews beer, listens to great music, and has an advanced degree in whittling.