Melting into early spring

By Conelia Dixon - Contributing columnist

Whew, I do believe it is spring, at least spring “enough” to begin planting in the gardens!

Enough snow, cold wind, sleet, graupel (looks like dippin’ dots) — yes, today it is sunny, and people are outside, mowing, motorcycling, and putting out plant starts. That is what I have been doing for the last month, in and out, in and out. I think a lot of us are wanting to get out there and put our hands in the soil, and ready to “get going” in the garden. Someone talked to me today after church about how she is excited to get her garden started at home. I think I will go there and see what she has going. Annette Kauffman has a greenhouse and chickens that I want to go see, too. She is one of our coordinators now. Michelle said she will be out planting today at her home garden. Deb will be back from Florida on the 25th, and she is so eager to bust a move in the garden. I have a long list for her!

You might have heard somewhere, sometime that getting outside and working in the garden is good for you, not only for exercise but that there are things in the soil that make you feel “good”. Bugs? Worms? Slugs? I don’t think many of you like the thought of those things when you dig in the soil with your hands. Well, there is at least one other thing in there that is probably beneficial to your health, and I don’t imagine that you will think of it as slimy because you can’t see it! There is a bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae, found in healthy soil (and most soil is healthy), and when exposed to it, the microbe stimulates serotonin production. Studies are showing that perhaps when gardeners and farmers get in touch with this bacterium by touching it, inhaling it, and getting it into their bloodstreams they feel more at ease, less stressed, happier. Have you ever known a “mad” farmer? Yes, it is a real scientific thing, although the tests have not been on humans to solidify the info. It mirrors the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. Try looking up Mycobacterium vaccae at to get more information.

Okay, then, what is serotonin? Oh boy, here we go, another science lesson. You thought you were done with that after high school, didn’t you? Serotonin is a chemical messenger (some say a hormone) in your body that is thought to be a mood stabilizer. Some say it even helps with PTSD. Lack of serotonin can be caused by health and brain changes, poor diet, chronic stress, lack of exercise, and/or lack of exposure to natural light.

Enough brain strain for now. I want to tell you what The People’s Garden is doing at this time of year. We had a workday last month, and we were already planting some crops. Michelle and Zach planted spinach in two of the garden beds. Annette planted turnips in two beds. All of that was coming up in a couple of weeks. I wanted to plant peas and other things that like the coldness of early spring, but some of the beds were totally frozen. We dress warm and wear hats, gloves, boots, warm coats, and we just love being in the garden. I like walking in the garden in the winter and taking beautiful pictures.

Now we are ready to really get going, to plant lots of crops, like radishes, arugula, lettuce, collard greens. Linda Lee and Kenny like these, and so does Joe who works in Agape. Things are getting wild, busy, busy, busy.

Our next workday for the community is Sunday, April 24, from 2 to 5 p.m. We need to build a few more metal beds, put up the birdhouses, plant crops, pick up sticks, and we need someone to dig a post hole for a 4 foot by 4 foot pole for our martin house. We have workdays each month and encourage anyone to come and enjoy being outside and helping. In fact, if you want to check out the garden and see if you want to help, just give me a call and I will run right out there, give you a tour and tell you all about the birds, bees, how to take care of insects naturally, bacterium, seeds, building bird houses, and all the fun work that we do. Yes, we need you!

We are very willing to talk to your group, club, or organization about the garden. In the last month we have talked to three groups about what we do at The People’s Garden and gardening in general. We usually have seeds to give and recipes to offer. I am a Master Gardener and can give you some advice if you need it or at least tell you how to find the best information yourself. We love collaborating with other community gardens and other gardeners around here. We plan to “bee” at the Farmers’ Market this season on some Saturdays. Look for us!

We are so fortunate to live in such a giving, generous community. There are individuals and organizations that donate time, plants, equipment, buildings, seeds, and believe me, we do not waste anything. We use every plant and pack of seeds, and we appreciate all the interest that you all have in being kind and helping to provide food for those in need. Thank you so much.

By Conelia Dixon

Contributing columnist

The writer is a Master Gardener and a coordinator of the People’s Garden. Reach her at 937-726-9525.

The writer is a Master Gardener and a coordinator of the People’s Garden. Reach her at 937-726-9525.