In This Issue Gardening is a Sport Time to Think We Socialize We Organize Things To Do ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Down Time Before Up Time "In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy." ~William Blake Say 'good morning' to your time off. Gardeners are very fortunate, as hobbyists go. Philatelists [stamp collectors], model railroaders, knitters and water colour painters have the entire year to indulge their special interests. Come to think of it, so do gardeners. Only we 'garden' differently in January and February. We do it in our heads. Here is my 4 point refresher for 'winter gardeners': ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ #1 Gardening is an active sport. I know, you don't think of it as a sport, per se, but look at it this way: according to the ultimate authority, Wikipedia, the word sport comes from "the old French desport meaning "leisure", with the oldest definition in English from around 1300 being "Anything humans find amusing or entertaining." Based strictly on this definition gardening is as much a sport as hunting or fishing. Maybe a more civilized one at that, after all we are not killing our play-things but rather planting and nurturing them, for the most part. And yes, at the end of the day, we can eat the spoils of our sport too. In this regard gardening is the ultimate outdoor sport. Gardeners need winter to recharge, like any other sport-people. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ #2 Time to Think. It is hard for the non-gardener to appreciate the creative juices that are invested in the efforts of gardening. It is, after all, not like we just wander out to the yard some Saturday morning and start digging. There is an enormous amount of planning that goes into this endeavor. We have to know, in our minds eye, what the garden will look like each year, what vegetables and fruits it will produce, where the kitchen herbs will be planted and above all, where we are going to sling the hammock. You think that this stuff just 'happens'? If you do, I will take that as a compliment. As my late father Len would say, "The mark of a professional is one who makes their work look easy." Winter is not just 'down time' [while it is that] it is also a time when the urgency is gone. There are no weeds begging for their heads to be chopped off or beans that need picking on this very day. Gardeners are afforded the luxury of researching ideas that might work for us in our own garden: we read everything that we can to stimulate our thought process [including the stack of gardening magazines that we didn't get to earlier in the year] and we order seeds from catalogues. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ #3 We Socialize. Gardening is a bit like writing: it is a solitary experience, when we are actually doing it. However, that does not mean that we are not social people. Very much the opposite. There is nothing we love more than getting together to compare notes, pictures, gardening travel stories and to brag about the size of our tomato crop. Winter is our time to get together. Garden Clubs, Horticultural Societies, courses on every aspect of gardening and casual, thrown-together meetings occur with tremendous frequency when the snow is piled high. In this regard I contend that gardening cures shyness. I have frequently seen otherwise shy, retiring people open up and offer an opinion or reflect on an experience where gardening is concerned. It is the ultimate motivator for the tight lipped. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ #4 We Organize. Remember all of those pictures that you took of your garden this past season? Now is the time to file them according to date, get them 'right side up' and delete the duds. I find that organising my photos is a great reminder that they even exist. I am one snap happy shooter during the gardening season. But my mind is pre occupied with 'getting it over with' so that I can get to the real task at hand: weeding, sowing, harvesting etc. For this reason I often forget that I actually captured a moment with a monarda: butterfly, flower and all. Photos are not all that we organise. We organise the images in our head too. And finally, there is the amazing garden of tomorrow: the one that does not exist yet in reality but does in our brain. Winter is our time to think about the changes that we are going to make to our garden. I am planning a new 'green roof' on top of my fire wood shed, a couple more pergolas in the back garden and I am making a list of the veggies that I am going to grow. I am negotiating with the cook in our house [that would be my wife] and Ted, the deli owner down the street. He makes the best tomato sauce in the world, using my organic, free range, grass fed San Marano tomatoes [I made up the part about 'grass fed']. Yes, gardeners dream while the snow piles high. Others may ski or play hockey or trap muskrats in the muskeg. It is not that we can't do these things too: we often do. But don't be fooled by a gardener who busies himself snowshoeing through the drifts. He may bear all of the appearances of loving the experience, but in reality he is killing time, waiting for the frost to bid us goodbye. Mark Cullen Merchant of Beauty ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Things To Do this Month 1. Plan. As per my story [above] review the digital photos on your computer, order your seed catalogues, look over the new offering of seeds at your favourite retailer and think about the changes that you would like to make to your garden this season. 2. Read. See that stack of gardening magazines in the corner? The ones that you didn't get around to reading during the 'season'? Have a good, winter-time review of them and pass them on to friends and family. 3. Meet and be social. Join your local horticultural society, take a course on gardening/garden design/garden architecture at your local botanical garden [if you have one] and check out the nigh school courses at your local school and/or garden centre. 4. Grow an amaryllis. They are soooo easy to grow and a lot of fun, especially during the long cold days. Who knows, maybe this time round you will win the Mark Cullen Best Amaryllis contest! See details below. 5. Repot tropicals. Roots growing out the drainage hole? Roots growing through the surface of the soil? Time to repot: use a pot one size larger, use fresh potting soil and push the soil aggressively down between the roots and the wall of the new clay pot. And yes, I do prefer clay pots to plastic as they breathe.