Gardening in the Winter Happens in the Imagination

Ah, the seed catalogs. Johnny’s, FEDCO, Territorial, Cook’s Garden, and my favorite, Kitchen Garden Seeds, begin to arrive around Christmas. A gentle tease, I make myself wait until after the holiday season to crack them open in order of least preference, which allows me to clear out early on the catalogs that offer me no inspiration for our next garden, leaving me with one or two from which to dream and imagine what to grow in the coming seasons.

Last year, since we finally, finally finished building our little (9’ x 16’) greenhouse and set up a cost efficient way to heat it on especially cold nights we decided to try some greenhouse cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes. The seeds were expensive, but for twenty bucks we got to start early and ate our first homegrown cucumber in late April, which for a New England gardener is very early. We enjoyed early tomatoes also, but last year’s crop succumbed to the blight that made its way around, and most of our plants died, leaving us only with cherry tomatoes. Better than no tomatoes. The zucchini looked lovely on the vine, but we found them to be tough and aged, even at only medium size, so we won’t try those again this year.

Gardening is hard work, make no mistake, but the dreaming and planning for what we will produce in our small suburban raised beds is a source of joy for me. I love the possibilities, accept the work, and hum with delight as I meander through the plants and vines from April to November (sometimes even December) picking vegetables for our next meal or two.

During Thanksgiving weekend, we had the pleasure of two of JT’s college friends visiting for an afternoon, and I learned, much to my surprise, that JT had told stories of her parents’ garden for the four years she was away at school. One guest was skeptical of it, but as luck would have it, that morning I had spotted a near-perfect head of broccoli exactly ready to be cut, and I knew there were carrots that could be dug. When he expressed his doubts, I just smiled at him and said I’d be right back. When I returned with the broccoli and a fist full of freshly dug carrots his skepticism departed quickly, and as he bit into one of the fresh, live carrots, the look of astonishment on his face was satisfaction enough for me.

Maybe we have converted another to the concept of real, live, homegrown vegetables, which is the greater gardening, if you ask me.



  1. Chris said,

    January 24, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Hey…happy 1st blog! Looking forward to the next one…I’ll bookmark you! Mmmmm…carrots fresh out of the ground…lucky boy who got taught a lesson with that freshly dug carrot! 😉

  2. January 24, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks, Chris. I’ll try not to disappoint.

  3. NMH said,

    January 30, 2010 at 12:27 am

    How wonderful…you have me dreaming of summer in January! Wonderful’re a good writer.. How bout some more?

  4. Descartes said,

    February 1, 2010 at 1:57 am

    When I was a much more serious gardener I used to love getting all those seed catalogs about this time of year. Then sitting down and planning out the plots and deciding how many new beds we might be able to squeeze in here and there.

    So yeah, this is the perfect time for the dream garden.

    • February 1, 2010 at 2:22 am

      I would be interested to know why you stopping gardening, or at least now garden less seriously.

      • Descartes said,

        March 29, 2010 at 7:03 pm

        Working on the whole Merlin bit of living backwards. I used to have a garden that was like a small farm on a quarter of an acre of land. I grew everything and loved it. But now I have a much smaller place and have grown a bit lazy as well-so I tend to just buy a few peppers and tomatoes and that is that.

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