Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Winter Break - 1/6/10

Oh, how I love this time of year. Christmas is over and I’ve dragged the tree outside to sit under the bird feeders so the Chickadees have a place to hide, and I’ve swept up the swath of needles that fell off on the tree’s way out to be thrown on the compost pile. I’ve put away all the decorations and taken down the lights. Now I have the leisure to sit curled up in my favorite chair with my blanket and a cup of tea and study all the seed catalogues.

If you’re not a serious gardener you may think that this time of year is down time for gardeners. After all, not much digging can get done when the soil is frozen solid, with the obvious exception of digging your car out of the snow. Winter is down time in a way, but we gardeners spend the season dreaming, and dreaming is more important that you might suspect.

Personally, I grow most of my plants by seed. It’s very unusual for me to buy a perennial or vegetable plant at a nursery. I do at times, particularly when it comes to plants such as lavender, which I cannot live without and are very difficult to grow from seed. I learned to grow healthy plants from seed because I am frugal (nice word for “cheap”) and I simply could not afford to stock my garden every year with nursery grown plants.

Most of my perennials I winter sow, which is a method I will discuss next week. The vegetables that need a head start, such as tomatoes and peppers, I start inside in mid-March. For annuals I use a lot varieties that are easily grown from seed. Sunflowers, cosmos, poppies, morning glories, nasturtiums and alyssum are some very nice annuals that I use every year.

The math is easy. I can pay $2-3 for a packet of 100 seeds, or I can pay $5-10 for a single perennial. I’m a mother with young children. I have to stretch the budget to feed and clothe my family before I even get to feed my gardening habit. HGTV (although there’s really not much “G” on that channel I’ve found) will have you believing that you need thousands of dollars to buy large, nursery grown plants to make your landscaping beautiful.

When the seed catalogues come in the mail, I’m in heaven. I go through each one, comparing and contrasting, imagining what I want the gardens to look like, and thinking about what new plant varieties I’d like to try this year. Then I diagram out the vegetable garden and any new perennial gardens with paper and pencil.

People in the South think that our weather makes gardening difficult. I, however, can’t imagine never having the winter break in which to dream.

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