Hagen: When your brain wants peace, go to the garden

Why is it now that I’ve learned to soak up the happiness that comes with watching vegetables grow?

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Mitchell Republic Editor Luke Hagen.

Call it my breakout sophomore season.

Through two years of playing in the dirt, I’m ready to declare myself a serious vegetable gardener. It’s a new lifelong hobby.

How is this simple joy of planting so satisfying? Why is it now that I’ve learned to soak up the happiness that comes with watching a garden grow?

While waiting and praying for rain through the heat of summer, I’ve spent plenty of time with a hose in hand watering and mulling over those questions.

The best conclusion I’ve determined is the benefits of gardening are beyond description, so many that I’m actually having trouble writing this column. (I don’t get writer’s block, folks.)


So, here’s a scene. My two daughters are playing in the backyard with two black labs. Their beautiful mother with a seltzer in her hand, sunglasses on and soaking up the warmth from the patio. After a workday of staring at a computer screen, my eyes craving natural light and my brain wanting peace, my garden has become a home within my home to spend time with my favorite people and four-legged friends.

There are 29 pepper plants (jalapeno, green, banana and even candy-cane), 15 tomato plants (gotta have little cherries for fresh summer salads), chives, and a single squash plant threatening to overtake the area. For you serious, long-time gardeners out there, I know it’s not a wide variety of vegetables. Where, for Heaven’s sake, are the onions or potatoes? Where’s the sweet corn? The zucchini?

Look, I’m keeping it simple for now and learning on the fly.

Someday, I’ll expand my input. I’m proud of what has been built (especially my raised garden box) thus far.

Remember spring 2021 when lumber prices climbed to an outrageous level? Well, I climbed into the rafters of my garage and pulled down some unused fence posts and scrap wood and threw together a makeshift raised garden with the help of my neighbor.

Then, during a visit to Platte, I picked up a handful of large livestock feed tubs to fill with Hanson County farm dirt, thanks to the best friends a guy could ask for. With land prices as high as they are, what a generous gift to share some of that soil, huh? The feed tubs are great planters to be had for a $1 donation each. Simple. Cost-effective.

Presto-chango, a regular-old backyard with a throw-together garden. That first year we had some close calls from the heat — a weekend getaway made for some thirsty plants. But they somehow powered through and allowed my gardening addiction to grow.

My daughters both love helping water our plants. Our youngest mostly just enjoys being a 4 year old splashing in the overflow, but our 8-year-old appreciates the responsibility. Those plants need us, she understands, whether we’re watering, weeding or Miracle-Gro(ing).


And, with inflation, we sure can use those vegatables. As we continue hearing about rising prices in, really everything, I love wandering out daily to check the soil moisture and see the new little food forming from pollinated flowers. Is this how farmers feel when they go “check” their fields and their cattle?

Soon enough, the grocery bill will drop thanks to reaping the gardening rewards — the holy-bleeping hot jalapeno salsa. Summer squash. The fall tomato soup. The fact that I grew it, put it into the ground in May and spent countless hours with those plants, that homemade food just hits the taste buds differently.

When you get to share that with the good souls in your life, even better.

What am I still doing writing this? It’s 103 degrees outside, the workday is winding down and I haven’t checked on my garden today. My plants need me.

But I’m pretty sure I need them a whole lot more.

Opinion by Luke Hagen
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at
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