Opinion: Winter gardening


As I write this, the temperature outside is about a degree, with the wind whistling down from the north at 300 miles an hour. There’s a good half-foot of snow on the ground and more predicted to fall in the next few days.

You know what that means, don’t you?

Time to plan the garden.

Hey, you keep from going winter crazy your way, and I’ll keep from going winter crazy mine.

I’ll be honest, this winter – or, to be more specific, the month of January – has challenged me in ways I had not expected. You see, I am one of those goofs who actually like winter. Really. I like cold air. I like snow. I love winter sunrises. I love being home on a winter’s night with the house all cozy and warm and a pot of soup simmering on the stove or a mug of hot cocoa on the table beside my reading chair. I find romance in winter that just doesn’t exist for me during spring, summer and fall.

Except this one. This winter isn’t romantic. It’s a ginormous pain in the butt. And we’re just a third of the way through it.

I think the problem is that it seems so relentless. A day or two of temperatures in the single-to-negative digits is manageable. A week or two, or four, not so much. It kind of saps your willingness to participate in your own life, until all you really want to do is sit around watching daytime TV and eating stuff you’re not supposed to. Or so I hear. You wouldn’t catch me doing anything like that. Ahem.

Which brings me to back to planning a garden.

For me, it’s the best way I know to keep seasonal lunacy at bay. As long as I have a seed catalog and an active imagination, I stay pretty much on the sane side of the line. The temperature can be plummeting and I won’t notice, seeing as how I am dreaming of juicy red tomatoes hanging from lush, green plants. And if I don’t notice the plummeting temperature, then I won’t be tempted to do something deranged, like go outside in my underwear to shovel the walk. At midnight.

(Rest assured, however, that even if I did go outside in my underwear to shovel the walk at midnight, I would wear a hat. The weather loonies on TV always say to wear a hat when you go out in a blizzard. I think it’s so your brain won’t freeze. Which explains a lot when you notice how many TV weather loonies are outside reporting on blizzards without their hats on.)

So give me my seed catalogs, my graph paper, my straightedge and my pencils. Let me plan my spring planting, row by row and plant by plant. Let me look for something new to grow alongside the old standbys. Even if it is but a temporary diversion, let me think about something other than the miserable winter weather and think, just for a little while, that spring’s warm embrace is just around the corner.

Wow. I just checked the temperature. It’s gone up from a degree to a couple of degrees. It could be the start of a heat wave. Meanwhile, “Ellen” is coming on and I think there are some Oreos in the pantry.

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