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OPINION

A Victory Garden provides the silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic

Rose Beilman Shoup
Pratt Tribune
Fresh vegetables, straight from the garden of Rose Beilman Shoup and her husband Mark provide inspiration and food for body and soul during the coronavirus pandemic days of seclusion.

For years in my home, about a decade now, I’ve had old Victory Garden posters hanging on my wall since I love digging in the dirt and growing plants. But in the mix of teaching and coaching (and last summer traveling) I rarely kept up with the weeds, and by August my garden was more of a Failure Garden. Victory had nothing to do with it.

This year, the silver lining of the Covid crisis was that my garden truly earned the moniker, Victory. My husband and I started on our vegetable beds in March during spring break, and with the pandemic I was able to get up early about 5 or 6 a.m. and get outside for a couple hours each morning to prepare, plant, and prune my way to a gorgeous and abundant garden – all before heading inside to teach remotely in front of my computer the rest of the day.

The victory began in those colder weeks of March with planting and seeding through June. When Walmart put its spring bulbs on sale, I planted 150 gladiolas, about 50 caladiums, onion bulbs, and some new asparagus plants to supplement my old patch of a weedy asparagus bed. I ordered plant seed from Burrell Seed out of Rocky Ford, Colorado, where my husband’s family lived for a while and where the truck gardens sprang up in profusion in the early 20 th century. (Burrells offers more seed per packet than any other seed I’ve ever bought, and it’s GOOD seed, and perfect for Kansas gardening.)

I planted kale, Swiss chard, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, yellow squash, cabbage, green beans, cucumbers, cantaloupe, buckwheat, tatsoi, arugula, spinach, radishes, seed potato, and lettuce.

At Tractor Supply I bought herbs and eggplant. At Dillons I bought pepper plants, and again at Walmart, I was happy to find Big Beef tomatoes for my husband, who adores this kind of tomato. 

For shady container gardens, I found coleus, impatiens, begonia, and sweet potato vine, and while the early season crops grew, I started other hot peppers and Roma tomatoes indoors along with butterfly milkweed for the monarch butterflies. 

Once the seedlings grew, I added them to the mix outdoors.

I planted sale roses in June and cleaned out my old perennial bed which was full of climbing mint, vining vinca, and an abundance of weeds. It was fun to find plants on sale at Stutzmans to fill in where years of neglect had destroyed the former perennials. Echinacea, iris, phlox, yarrow, black-eyed Susan, Rose of Sharon, daylilies, and nativars (cultivated from native plants) joined the roses for the best backyard garden I’ve ever had.

Now, on an almost daily basis, I still get up early, still get in the garden before the heat of the day hits, and I harvest and weed. 

Some would call the harvest victory and the weeding punishment, but when I bring in the produce to my kitchen with baskets and buckets overflowing with produce, I feel blessed, even in this season of crazy Covid madness. My freezer is full of broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, and tatsoi – lovely greens that will liven up soups, stews, and stir-fry in the colder months. My shelves hold homemade salsa and hopefully will hold more canned goods later. I have boxes full of drying onions and Ziplock bags full of garlic for the year ahead. 

We share extra produce with the Hope Center or with friends and family. Every meal this summer I eat from God’s good bounty, meals such as bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches; homemade spaghetti sauce; green beans with onions; broiled yellow squash and zucchini; freshly sliced tomato wedges; and a host of other veggies.

So in spite of Covid, or perhaps because of it, I can say with firm assurance that this difficult era has brought victory with it in my own small corner of the world. My garden (along with the presence of close loved ones) has made the season bearable. After Zoom meetings, Canvas classes, Chat times with family, students, and friends, and beyond the isolation of communicating so much through computer and cell phone, I find that this year’s garden celebrates the best of nature with beauty for the soul and bounty for the table. 

What a victory!