Bring on spring fever, Saint Patrick's Day, frosty nighttime hours, hot cocoa and apple cider,  bright red tulips, and the falling and blowing snow. This is a busy time for man and leprechaun. Dried foliage in the garden spurs reflection...with perhaps a wistful memory of summer. And, as we can start seeds on warm window sills, we remember the pleasures of being in the spring garden and the social and family pleasure that will bring us as we enter the season of sharing meals and gratitude.

Questions or comments are always welcome.  We'll try to get right back to you right away.  

Email us, Cathie Draine and Brad Morgan, at gardeners@blackhillsgarden.com

Feeling depressed? Frantic for Spring?

(Here is a short article discussing the science behind that "happy feeling" we all get from spending time in the garden.) 

By Bonnie L. Grant

Prozac may not be the only way to get rid of your serious blues. Soil microbes have been found to have similar effects on the brain and are without side effects and chemical dependency potential. Learn how to harness the natural antidepressant in soil and make yourself happier and healthier. Read on to see how dirt (soil) makes you happy.

Natural remedies have been around for untold centuries. These natural remedies included cures for almost any physical ailment as well as mental and emotional afflictions. Ancient healers may not have known why something worked but simply that it did. Modern scientists have unraveled the why of many medicinal plants and practices but only recently are they finding remedies that were previously unknown and yet, still a part of the natural life cycle. Soil microbes and human health now have a positive link which has been studied and found to be verifiable.


Soil Microbes and Human Health


Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress.

Serotonin has been linked depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.

Most avid gardeners will tell you that their landscape is their “happy place” and the actual physical act of gardening is a stress reducer and mood lifter. The fact that there is some science behind it adds additional credibility to these garden addicts’ claims. The presence of a soil bacteria antidepressant is not a surprise to many of us who have experienced the phenomenon ourselves. Backing it up with science is fascinating, but not shocking, to the happy gardener.

Mycrobacterium antidepressant microbes in soil are also being investigated for improving cognitive function, Crohn’s disease and even rheumatoid arthritis.


How Dirt (Soil) Makes You Happy

Antidepressant microbes in soil cause cytokine levels to rise, which results in the production of higher levels of serotonin. The bacterium was tested both by injection and ingestion on rats and the results were increased cognitive ability, lower stress and better concentration to tasks than a control group.

Gardeners inhale the bacteria, have topical contact with it and get it into their bloodstreams when there is a cut or other pathway for infection. The natural effects of the soil bacteria antidepressant can be felt for up to 3 weeks if the experiments with rats are any indication. So get out and play in the soil and improve your mood and your life. (If you incorporate animal manures into your soil, be certain that your Tetanus shot is current.)


Surprises in winter garden.  Recently, on a day when I could restrain myself no longer, I wandered out into the garden to see what was up. Expecting nothing, I was delighted to see a handful of the tiny (about three inches) Galanthus nivalis, common snowdrops, blooming happily in the pine needles and snow.  more
 Ouch. (This information from Away to  Garden blog may have a solution for you.) From the start of winter into early spring, that’s my main complaint, and nonstop snow-shoveling and serious cold do nothing to speed relief. I whined to a friend the other day, and she listened for a moment, then stopped me with two words:wound strips.If you’ve had beat-up fingertips, you have probably gone through a lot of Band-Aids, but how practical are they, except overnight? They’re clumsy when typing, and when cooking, or washing hands—not good. If they get damp, the pad portion holds moisture, which doesn’t seem to promote healing, either; the little strips don’t do that. And ripping off a big old swath of adhesive from a split finger when the bandage is either wet or soiled, or you want to apply more balm? Ouch.

Instead, just put the tiniest dab of something emollient on the troubled spot—Bag Balm or Farmer’s Friend or A&D or whatever you like—then cover the crack up with a portion cut from one of the many quarter-inch-wide strips in each package. (The breathable adhesive strips are usually used in multiples, to secure small cuts and wounds, and even after suture or staple removal to improve cosmetic results. I used maybe one-third of one strip–of which there are 30 in a box–per fingertip, playing with the positioning depending which way the finger was cracked.) Don’t pull the crack closed forcefully with the strip, but rather start by lining up the skin edges, the directions say, then apply the strip to one side leading right up to the wound. Next, without any tension or pulling, apply the other half. With a crack under one nail, I positioned the strip as in the photo above. Remember: These little strips are adhesive, so use care when removing. 

Unexpected joys of winter.  I love this time of year because the mail brings us more plant catalogs than bills.  To avoid torture by plant catalogs, I ponder miscellaneous loose ends of garden thoughts.  more

Garden invasion of the voles.  Says Cathie, “we have been waging war on voles here. What a year for them!!! The damage is really amazing.”  Same story in the garden of Brad, who recommends putting mousetraps (since they look like mice) around a particular hole, with a 5-gallon bucket over the top so as not to snap squirrels and pets.  more

Roman wisdom about gardens. I know that thanks to my library and my garden, I am served heaps of wonder, reverence, curiosity, delight, questions, understanding, good hard work, accomplishment and failure. 

      Armed with the library and the garden my head, hands and heart are full and Cicero was right – a gardener lacks for nothing. more

Seed catalogs.  Ask a gardener, “What do you look forward to in the winter?” and the answer probably is “The arrival of the seed catalogs!” While I do my share of superficial skimming through the stash of seed catalogs that are bathroom literature in our house, I reflect that I ended the year wanting very much to activate a year-end Digs thought: think globally and act locally.

                 I didn’t have to look far to find like-minded activists and passionate seed growers. An article in the December issue of Mother Earth News, “Sourcing Truly High-Quality Garden Seeds” by Margaret Roach (check her website at AWAYTOGARDEN.com) makes several important and easily summarized points. Seeds are alive, albeit in paper envelopes, and where they were grown and how they were fed (organic seed or fertilizer-infused) will affect their growth and ability to produce. Gardeners have every right to expect this information on seed packets. more

The Hill City Evergreen Garden Club is sponsoring free garden seminars January-April on the 4th Wednesday at 1:00 in the Super 8 Motel Conference room. Seminars are free and the public is invited.

Alert!! There is information about the 6 week gardening short course, Gardening in the Black Hills, as well as the annual spring gardening event, Spring Fever, on the Upcoming Events page (or click on the Welcome tab!) Plan NOW to attend.

And don't forget that March 7th is Spring Fever.  more 

Soil and Civilization. Something old is a careful reread of Soil and Civilization a comprehensive history of the treatment of soil by numerous civilizations published in 1952 by British author Edward Hyams. 

      New to me is Hyams’ categorizing man as a parasite on the soil – striking an iffy balance between the health of the soil and the crops produced; categorizing man as a disease organism of the soil – vigorous and now regarded as stupid misuse and destruction of the Oklahoma soils leading to the Dust Bowl; and, happily, man as a soil maker – cultures that understood the need for manuring the soil, rotating crops and allowing some fields to fallow.  more

The planet is a global garden.  What’s happening in the atmosphere, in the oceans, across the land – whether called climate change or global warming or weird weather – affects us all.  more


Winter dreams and garden impermanence.  Our “weather memories” are often short term and inaccurate which allows all of us, including me, to redefine “autumn.” Beautiful foliage and bountiful harvests aside for the moment, I think of autumn primarily as a time of CHANGE.  more

Gardening Is Doorway to Mindfulness.  Fall is the time of gathering-in, of vegetables, of seeds, or of ideas. It was those latter that I gathered in during the recent annual state-wide Master Gardener Update in Yankton. more

March gardening tip.   See March gardening tips on green tab above.  One is to "Buy a notebook and use it to keep all your gardening information. List what you plant in the garden. Include the name of seed companies, plant name, variety, planting date, and harvest date. During the growing season keep notes on how well the plant does. If the variety is susceptible to disease, record what was used to treat any problems. All this information will be helpful in planning future gardens."  

      Yes, a journal will draw you deeply into the heart of your garden, especially if you incorporate drawing and watercolor. Anybody can do this, even with dried plants like zinnias still in their pots (waiting for seed collection). You learn by doing and get better with practice. more