Garden Planning: A Cure for the Midwinter Blues

By Leah
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Tonya Olson

From the end of November to the first of January the entire nation is a in a flurry of activity. First there is Thanksgiving dinner to plan and attend. Many families travel halfway across the country for this special time. Right on the heels of this comes Black Friday and Cyber Monday — the first official shopping days of the season. This is followed by many special sales days attended by frantic shoppers. There is the tree to choose, or bring out of storage and decorate, as well as the rest of the house, yard, and who knows what else. Then the great day comes and families gather, gifts are given, dinner is eaten, and we turn right into plans for the New Year complete with resolutions.

And then suddenly its over. Valentine’s is two months away and we feel letdown and a bit depressed. We pack away all of the Christmas trappings and wonder what we will do with ourselves. But a special group of people, to which I belong, long for the coming of January. In a way, its one of our favorite months. This is the month we begin to plan our gardens!

Gardeners love January. Its cold, dark, sometimes snowy, but that is fine with us. We make a cup of tea or coffee and curl up with all the seed catalogs we have saved during the fall months. We break out pen and paper and make lists of what we need to order. We plan and we dream and sometimes we even start seeds that can be set out before the last frost.

My first move is to bring out my leftover seeds and sort through them to see which is still good and which ones I need to reorder. I love tins, and I have two I keep my seeds in.

After sorting and making a list, I turn to my favorite seed catalog — Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This is practically the only catalog I use, although I always peruse the others that come in the mail. You never know what new tool, idea, or species you might come across.

This year I have a new addition to my gardening. As a writer I love journals, so I purchased the Old Farmer’s Almanac Gardening Notebook. This will replace the ratty old notebook I had with lists of seeds, when to start the seeds, when to plant, when to harvest, what types of soil for each and recipes for organic bug control. I try to keep a record of how the plants turn out, what I need to change, what methods worked and what didn’t, etc. Its a very valuable tool for gardeners. And one I need to curb my enthusiasm. I want to try everything, and I get in a great hurry to start my seeds. This book reminds me that if I start my tomatoes too early, they will get too big too soon and I will have no place for them. (My outdoor greenhouse has no heat but what the sun provides.)

Every year I try something new. This year, I will order fennel seeds. I love fennel, but it is not always available in the stores. I also want to enlarge my herb garden. I tried just four types last year, and had great success with them, so now I shall add a few more. I love herbs, because you can grow them in pots and make a lovely setting with them. And it gives great satisfaction to wander out to the herbs in the morning, cut some, and put them fresh into an omelet for Greg.

So if you have the midwinter blues about now, you might want to find some seed catalogs and consider planting a garden this year. The lovely thing about most vegetables is that you can plant them in containers to keep on your patio, or even in window boxes. A couple of tomato plants, a cucumber, and an eggplant in pots, with lettuce in a window box and you have the makings for egg plant Parmesan and a salad. And there is nothing better than a meal you grow yourself.