Lots of talk about how we’re going to bust out of this unprecedented, scary, virus pandemic real soon now and emerge cheering from our confinement, ready to return to our usual routines and generally comfortable way of life. Or maybe not.

The plague of 2020 should have taught us some valuable lessons. Life is fragile. Our advanced and supposedly technically superior health system can’t always come to our rescue. We can’t always count on having a job, or being able to pay our rent or mortgage.

And we might not even be able to get enough to eat. Out of all the TV news clips relating to the coronavirus outbreak, the ones that grabbed me the most were those showing the miles-long lines of people waiting to get free food. They might have arrived in expensive cars, but they were still hungry. Even former food pantry volunteers found themselves on the other end of the food drives.

There’s no guarantee that the abundance and availability of food we accept so casually will last forever. We might even have to re-think our casual attitude about wasting food. Even more radical, we might have to think about growing some of our own food.

This is probably a safer alternative than newbies taking up hunting for meat and maybe shooting some of those fat, slow-moving black and white deer. We should probably let the experienced hunters do their thing and continue donating extra venison to the food banks.

Gardening is safer, and fun. The fun part comes around August when you start to see the results of your weeding, watering and watching over those valuable veggies. After you’ve sampled your first home-grown sweet and juicy tomato, you’ll never look at one of those rock-hard numbers shipped from California the same again.

If you’ll excuse a couple of old-timey flashbacks here, we’ve almost always had a garden. Shirley’s was on her parents’ farm in Wisconsin. Ours was in a backyard in Baltimore. It was the time of World War II Victory Gardens and even lots on school property were sectioned off for neighbors to use. Our garden in Denver had to be dug out of clay. Our best garden was on a rented farm in Tomah, Wisconsin, when the kids were little.

We’ve lucked out in this part of the country with a temperate climate and rich soil, although we’re prone to poisoning that gift of good soil with chemicals. Think of the potential for growing nutritious food instead of grass we can’t eat unless we’re goats. Pretty, but useless.

As for what to grow, master gardener Blanca Poteat, in her helpful gardening tips article in the May 6 Frederick News-Post, had some great suggestions: “Try some reliable vegetables first, such as potatoes, bush beans, peas, summer squash, lettuce and kale, onions from sets, and cucumbers if you have a trellis or fence to support them. You may want to buy tomato and pepper plants and wire cages to support them.” She also recommended the web site extension.umd.edu/frederick-county/home-gardening for more gardening information.

We’ve had good luck with our down-sized backyard garden, with tomatoes, peppers and beans, and added cucumbers this year. Was a pain to have to cover and uncover those plants during the freeze warnings last week, but that’s what I get for rushing them into the ground too soon.

Another gardening opportunity is on city- and county-sponsored garden plots. They’re booked now and you’ll have to plan on renting those for next growing season. The county contact number is 301-600-1646; the city’s is 301-600-1492.

What about all those county apartment and condo residents who also like to have fresh veggies? Why can’t schools, churches, even some businesses on large lots with unused space, provide plots for people to use? We have the land that could fill a lot of needs. Let’s Make America Grow Again. And it would help the cause if we all wore green MAGA baseball caps with a logo of a bright red tomato.

I like what master gardener Poteat had to say about gardening overall. I’ll wrap up with that: “Gardening offers us a chance to be ‘all in this together’ in positive, productive ways. Gardening is accessible and hands-on rather than digital or virtual. Social distancing is relatively easy when you are gardening. And you do not have to distance yourself from your plants.”

Veggie-loving Bill Pritchard, who worked in community journalism for 40 years, writes from Frederick. Reach him at billpritchard.1@gmail.com.

(10) comments

caspiansails

I do grow my own food. In fact I just planted after having to move my garden as the neighbor planted pine trees very close the property line, we have setbacks for everything else we should have them for trees and they should be twice the half spread of roots. Anyway, I digress to vent a bit as they have sucked the nutrients out of the garden for the last time. It was either move or trench and cut the roots in my yard. Anyway, I have grown my own food for decades and my relatives before me. If I could plant more I would. If I had the space to grow my own beef and poultry I would, pigs maybe, but man who can stand the smell unless someone knows something I do not. Other things I buy from the local farm community like corn. We have some great corn in the area. I usually buy a couple hundred ears and process it and it lasts the entire year. Have my own peach tree so canned peaches. Planting apple trees and three we go, apples. Just planted blueberries because, well those things are expensive and my wife loves them. You can keep your story bought tomatoes and frankly when they are not being picked I avoid them. Yuck. Anyway, what you say is true and frankly if I had too the neighbor across the field has some nice black angus and if the local butcher is too busy, well I have a 22 and nice set of knives. Yeah no saw but I can improvise if I have too. Not talking about stealing the steer, buying it and if I have too I can butcher it myself. Not too far is a pig farm and I know the owner, who could not butcher a pig on their own. Yeah, messy, smelly but that is gone in no time. The Potomac is just ten minutes away and there is still plenty of bass, channel cats, perch etc there. The entire valley is full of deer and this winter rabbits, there are enough in the yard to catch with trap, box or snare in the fence and could stock up on them for a long time. I guess if I had too, I could raise some poultry as well. Just a fence a coup and some chicks. Now if my wife allowed me to fence in the front yard, could probably put two steer in there. You are correct.

bosco

Where can I get a Make America Grow Again hat?

Greg F

Probably in the dump.

jsklinelga

Mr. Pritchard,

Excellent column. You are correct about all the possible spaces available that could be productive. Next year, hopefully, we will be back up and running which means most folks will not have time nor the inclination for gardening. But I have my first garden in years and love it. Whether food is scarce or not I will be looking forward to next spring. And now I want chickens but the town still says no. Ah what pleasant memories we will have of the pandemic of 2020.

olefool

jas: You're calling over 100,000 deaths from a preventable plague "pleasant memories"??? I'm going to save your comment and repost it next May 17th, provided you and/or I are still alive then. But of course President Biden and his Cabinet may well have eradicated the plague by then, Trump? Not so much...

jsklinelga

olefool

There is no doubt some heart wrenching stories are associated with CoVid 19. What the people in the nursing homes and their families suffered is -heart wrenching. But your disgraceful attempt to politicize this pandemic is - disgraceful. If you are going to be critical your criticism might be better founded on how we handled the virus locally.instead of your ill conceived political pandering. But any criticism of people trying their best to fight this menace lacks compassion and "class."

And yes, my garden will be a pleasant memory.

phydeaux994

Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Hollowed Ground

Another good lesson is that despite technically advanced communications world wide -- social media, internet, radio, TV, none of which except limited radio existed in 1918 -- none of it does any good if the officials receiving the information choose to ignore it or dismiss it. The Trump administration has treated all information about the pandemic, from the earliest warnings to the current predictions, in the same manner Captain Smith treated repeated ice warnings. He tears them up. Captain Smith chose to proceed at top speed and depend on lookouts. We know how well that worked out. Trump has chosen to fire all the lookouts, lest they spot something he doesn't like, and proceed at top speed anyway relying on wishes and quackery. We need a new captain fast.

Greg F

Sums it up well. He’s like Charles in Charge. Charles Manson.

CheetoBenito

Manson was more coherent.

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