The Winter Garden Itch

I’ve got the itch. The dark, cold days of winter are the toughest time of year for gardeners. Our natural urge is to get outside and grow things. In most areas of the country, the ground is buried by several feet of snow. In my neck of the woods, the ground is wet and cold. It’s not the best time to start planting even if my native New Englander instinct says, “The ground is bare; it’s time to get planting.”


My favorite seed catalogue.

My favorite seed catalogue.

The garden is still in a deep sleep. My husband spent a few afternoons fencing it in and building a gate to keep the chickens out, after they ravaged my kale and chive seeds. I’ve been gradually pulling up the rugs that have covered once-grassy ground to reveal rich, dark soil. With my trusty tiller in hand, I’ve been turning the soil, pulling up the deep roots of weeds and unwanted plants. I’ve been collecting rocks and bricks from around the property and lined them up next to one another to outline the individual beds in which I’ll double or triple what I plant this year.


The seed catalogues that have arrived at the house are dog-eared and highlighted, while my garden plan for the year has dark eraser marks from where I’ve changed my mind a million times—Do I want three types of sunflowers or should I plant another type of corn? That squash looks interesting, but will we eat it? Do I try to give tomatoes another whirl or just throw in the towel and say, “I give up, damn you! I’ll just buy you at the Co-op.” Although I want to buy all of my seeds now, I know that I can’t plant them for another month or two even if I start them indoors, and it just seems cruel to let them go unplanted for that long.


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