Boy, is it dark out there and cold! What is a gardener to do when there is no light, the ground is frozen, snow covers everything and the tools are put away. Thankfully, there is so much more to gardening than the physical work of planting, weeding, watering and harvesting. Also fortunately, all the rest is perfectly suited to the winter months.
December is a great month to review the past season and generate ideas for improvements for the spring. On a still and sunny day, stand in the garden and remember the plants that nourished you, ones you prepared for the freezer or canning jar, ones you look forward to again and write it down. Sit by the fire and scan the catalogs or on-line seed companies and make plans based on your dreams and memories. Learn about new methods, evaluate the experiments of this season past, have a garden party (one where you can gather with other gardeners to order bulk seeds), and read a few good books. Hint that super Holiday gifts could be ones that bring Spring. Ask for books, season extenders so you can start earlier and go later, new gloves, special tools or watering systems. The list is endless (see gardeners.com for gift ideas).
I thought it would be fun to share the books that you have found inspiring and informative -- your favorites -- and briefly why you read them again and again. Here are my all time favorites and a bit about them:
Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich was reviewed on this site here: http://www.oeic.us/articles/reviews/weedless_gardening
This is a great little “how-to” book on a method of gardening (weedless) that is wonderfully simple and very productive. It has lots of information, well-organized and clearly written.
Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
Like a true encyclopedia the topics are arranged alphabetically with many plants, problems and methods. It is a wonderful reference and a good place to start when you don’t know where to start. There are sections on pruning, grafting, pests, companion planting and hundreds more.
Teaming with Microbes, The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. We all know that soil is a complex and amazing community of inter-related life forms, but this book opens that wonderful world to a deeper appreciation of how important it is to care for all life, especially the life that keeps our soil fertile. The book is easy to read and hard to put down.
The Secret Life of Plants “a fascinating account of the physical, emotional, and spiritual relations between plants and man” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. If you love nature and plants, this book will knock your socks off. Written in 1972, the authors collected research and stories from over a hundred years and have woven it together into a compelling book. It isn’t exactly light reading, but you will be very glad of what you have learned.
Because it has been mild this fall, I am still harvesting carrots, parsley, kale, collards, cabbage, celery, cilantro, chard, and some tiny heads of broccoli. Simple hoops and plastic have been enough to keep things from damage. This will be the first winter with a plastic greenhouse and so far so good. While it has been in the teens, the temperature inside the greenhouse has stayed above 30 and all the plants seem to be doing well. One surprise is the chickweed I let grow (it volunteered) to use in salads. It is doing great, large leaves and sprawling like it would in spring.
One last thought for the year: there is no end to what you can learn about and no bottom to the depths of appreciation you can feel for plants. Give yourself the time in the garden and let the garden become a part of you.
Nancy is a retired secondary teacher. She built and lives in an active and passive solar, high thermal mass home. She is an avid gardener and helps others to learn how to garden.