I have friends who love summer and dread winter, and friends who love snow and dread scorching heat. I've historically considered myself the latter, as I despise sweating. But there is something about a garden that connects you so closely to the seasons that you learn the beauty in each one.
Winter comes with snow, long nights with warm blankets, hot chocolate, twinkling lights, deep mulch, and a renewed focus on family time. Spring creeps onto the scene with pops of green, then yellow and purple, with gradually lengthening days and renewed energy.
There is nothing quite like the way a summer garden changes by the day, sometimes seemingly by the hour. There are certain plants that thrive in the heat and high sun, and will flourish in the summer. There is so much joy in going to the garden with a basket and always finding something to bring in, and often overflowing the basket you thought was big enough.
If there has been enough rain, the pastures will be growing, and the management of movement is a daily priority. Move the animals quickly to save drought touched ground, give them a little longer in lush areas, always trying to stay a step ahead of and protect the vital growth of perennial grasses.
One thing summer and winter have very much in common is the water. It must be checked and maintained. In the summer the animals go through it quickly, and hours in the hot sun without water could be tragic. In the winter it must be made available throughout the day as well, although rather than simply running a faucet or filling gravity waterers, it looks like breaking ice or dumping and filling rubber tubs for the third time that day.
I have learned that the garden rarely rests. Now, it can, if you want it to. But if you want to nurture your garden into 3 or 4 productive seasons, it is a constant process. Our garden currently produces from early spring until fall frost, but as I make the time to expand and add, it will be very capable of growing frost tolerant vegetables and flowers into the late fall. And with a little protection could grow root vegetables right through the winter. I am hoping to get there, one step at a time.
Right now I am planting and planning. November is the time to plant tulips, garlic, daffodils, peonies and iris for me this year. I started in October, but have deliberately waited on Tulips until it got a little colder, to try to avoid varmints. We shall see if it works!
I am also planning for next year and ordering the last few seeds I will need. It's time to start thinking about what flowers we want for our customers (and ourselves!) And what we are going to want to eat and preserve. Because we will need those seeds sooner than you might think!
Seed starting begins in January on our flower farm, with Lisianthus and early snapdragons. We get into heavy seed starting through February for the flowers and also vegetables, and in March begin transplanting into the garden. From then there is not much break in seed starting and transplanting, it will go all the way until early September as we switch from cool loving crops to heat loving crops, and on to fall crops.
I absolutely love it all, and there is nothing like getting your hands in the dirt in February while the snow is on the ground to cheer the soul. Seed starting and planting is a time of joy and hope for the future. I have a bit of that now as I get these bulbs in the ground, but bulbs are much slower that spring seeds. There is time to rest, reflect and plan. And I can't say which I love more.
I have learned that it's ok not to have a favorite season, or a preference for hot or cold. I choose to enjoy the season I am in, looking to the next season, not to be better or more to my liking, but in preparation of the joy that it too will bring. Spring will bring tulips and fresh lettuce and radishes, then broccoli and snapdragons and stock, then sunflowers and zinnias and cockscomb, tomatoes and green beans and cucumbers, and then carrots and dahlias and chrysanthemums and brussels sprouts will finish out the fall. The work will change from planting to weeding to harvesting to planting again and mulching for the winter. And through it all the animals will need fed and the kids will need to play and learn and work and grow. And our little family will be together and here for all of it. And my childhood dreams will be coming true all year long.