Dirt – Growing Veggies in Northern Michigan during the Winter?

Today is one of “those” days.  Blah.  Uninspired.  Gray.  Snow sifting down and settling on frozen dirt.  Dirt.  Wish I had some right now.

Two of my boys had a craving for dirt last week.  They dug up one of my planters of basil.  There’s dirt all over the bench the planter is on.  Once I convinced the three and one year old males that my planter is not a sandbox, they decided to dig in our Michigan basement.  That was OK until they started carting up treasures from previous owners (a sparkplug, for example).  Today they wanted to dig in their outside sandbox since the snow melted off it over the weekend.  Jim (3) went out in his jeans, shirt, and tennis shoes.  Alas, it wasn’t actually summer out there yet!  Frank (18 mo.) was wise enough to heed his mother and put on warm outdoors clothes.

We were in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan this weekend, spending time with Randy and Libby Buchler of Shady Grove Farm.  Way up in Marquette, under a couple feet of snow yet, they have dirt.  I was jealous.  Libby planted spinach and other cold hardy crops Sunday after we left.  Hands in the dirt.  Lovely, compost rich, fluffy dirt.  Randy and Libby already have calouses from double digging the beds–not an easy feat when it’s zero degrees outside days in a row.

Next winter I really want to have a hoop house.  We could be eating broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, and such cold tolerant veggies fresh all winter!  A friend of ours didn’t believe it was possible to grow fresh vegetables in our northern climate without a heating system.  It is absolutely possible!  We know several people who have fresh food all winter (one runs his CSA year round) using hoop houses with layers of agribon (a type of fabric with varying insulation values) to insulate the plants while maximizing what solar input we have.  And dirt.  We could have dirt.  Maybe then I wouldn’t crave dirt so much.  I might even be tired of it.  I’d like to find out.

Well, as long as the dirt is still snow covered and frozen, I’ll have to settle for dreaming.  And looking forward to April-spring.  Maybe I’ll go through the seed catalog and think about french breakfast radishes, Fortex pole beans, peas, and the varieties of sweet corn that I can spread homemade butter on.  Oh, yeah.  Dirt.