my annual question: what are your winter plans?

NOW THAT WE’RE WITHOUT DAYLIGHT SAVINGS, and “with” the first snow, it seems the moment to ask: What do you want to do together this winter? Shall we all just hibernate silently in our individual (garden) beds, like the woolly bear caterpillar above in the discarded nest, or keep the conversation going and pretend it’s not happening? I asked the same question a year ago today, and you all said “onward.” So shall we compare calendars?

As I said in my November 8, 2010 post, the A Way to Garden philosophy (developed through a very unscientific 25-plus years of digging holes) is that the garden is a 365-day companion, and that the season never ends.

You can hear me talk about that notion in today’s podcast with my friends at Robin Hood Radio, by the way. Or in the “woo-woo video,” as I call it, that I made this past spring. It’s right here (though you have probably seen it):

WITH THAT ‘WE NEVER CLOSE’ attitude, I will continue posting and also sending newsletters* in the hopes that all gardeners have plants on their minds no matter what the weather delivers—and speaking of weather, did I mention it snowed for the first time today? Egads.

(*What? You don’t get my free newsletter? Register to receive it by clicking here.)

So what else is on my winter schedule so far, besides salting, sanding, shoveling—and a stack of books and Netflix?

This will be a unique winter for me, or at least distinct from any other in more than a dozen years, in that I will have a book coming out, “And I Shall Have Some Peace There,” about walking away from my “successful” career and city life to finally live here in the garden, connect to nature, and write again. There will be lots of to-do’s related to that, including lectures and bookstore events (the first of which are listed here; more being scheduled).

I’m also starting on another book—though the subject is a bit of a temporary secret, because I don’t like to try to explain things “out loud” until I am well immersed in them and can state them clearly. Soon, I promise. But since I’ve signed up to write “The Book After the Upcoming Book” (as we shall temporarily refer to it) I’ll be in the best seat in the house, staring out at the bird feeder over my right shoulder and at the Buddha by the frogpond ahead of me, with an increasingly less demonic Jack by my (cold?) feet.

AS I TUCK THE LAST of the vulnerable things into the cellar and otherwise get ready for all those tasks, there’s this all-important to-do that’s really first and foremost: I want to take a moment to thank each of you for being the clever, kind and considerate catalysts and companions that you are.

Without your comments (almost 15,000 so far!) I would not have kept posting stories (nearly 700 of them) and photos (approaching 2,000, though my Nikon crapped out a week ago and is in the hospital, drat).

You urge me onward, and for that, I thank you more than you can know.

Now go mulch something, won’t you? Winter’s just ahead, and I don’t want to be held responsible for any unnecessarily frosted bits, now do I? :)

  1. Matriarchy says:

    I always have a list of winter projects. The four garden-related ones this year are: 1. Worm composting – I spend the winter turning food waste, cardboard, and newspaper into lovely rich worm fertilizer for next season. My one bin became two this year, and will become four next year – one to give to a friend. 2. Community-building – I am planning to try to start a neighborhood garden group with some winter networking. 3. Seed trading via online garden groups. 4. Construction – I usually buy starts instead of seeds, but this year I am building a seed-starting area with lights, building a cold frame for spring, and scavenging lumber for new raised beds.

  2. Mary-Jane says:

    Looking forward to your talk at Berkshire Boranical Garden’s winter lecture!

    Could you tell us about yr. experiences with intersectional peonies?

  3. Mary-Jane says:

    New gardening book: Robin Lane Fox’s Thoughtful Gardening – gret reading for winter hopes and dreams – for spring 2011.

  4. Liz says:

    Mary-Jane: that’s good news about Fox’s new book.

    I think winter is a time for garden design, and I’ve been desperately trying to come up with a style so I can design one. I’ve been reading lots of books about design, and I don’t really find any of them all that helpful, in making the transition from abstract to my own place. For one thing, I’ve got a beautiful huge beech tree, and I just don’t know how to garden around it: how do you deal with such a focal point, without diminishing it?

  5. Ginger Goolsby says:

    Please continue your informative and inspirational blog. I just found you this past spring and I love your posts. I’m looking forward to your winter posts and also to your suggestions for garden planning and I’m interested in how you rated the new plants you grew this year especially tomatoes. Here in Tennessee my winters are not as severe as yours and we don’t get nearly enough snow, but I will be interested in hearing about winter in the Northeast….so onward!!!

  6. ALWAYS ONWARD AND UPWARD. Now we have catalogs to peruse, dreams and schemes to chart, seeds to buy, bulbs to plant, garlic to go into good soil, and rosemary sprigs to rescue from the sides of plates. Yes! I have four rosemary plants growing happily that once resided indolently on restaurant offerings.

    Gardening is LIFE at its best.


    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  7. Margaret Fusco says:

    By all means keep posting throughout the winter; it’s the only time I really have a chance to read them! The older I get the less I resent the “downtime” and truly enjoy
    1) the rest and 2) the gearing up to do it all again in the spring. Here on my little “farmette” of 5 acres I’m taking advantage of the sunny and dry days we’ve had in NE Ohio to put beds to bed, cover polyhouses, and get everything stored away before we get our infamous “lake effect” snows. Also, ’tis the season for wreath-making for me and I’m gathering materials from local nurseries (with their permission of course!)
    Soon the new seed catalogs will arrive and I’ll begin to review each crop that I grew for markets and make decisions for next season. Then, before I know it, it’s time to start the first seedlings. So goes the seasonal life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
    As for my ornamental gardens I’ve come to realize that I love the fall and winter garden most, maybe because there is so much else going on at other times. Every new planting I add is with that in mind.

  8. Thank you so much for your blog. I love it in every way….the photos, the intention, the layout, the content, the ‘attitude’. Inspiring, you are!

    It would be cool to have a book discussion about your book after it releases in Feb.

    I would also like to hear about winter gardening…eliot coleman style. Actually anything about ‘gardening’ that can extend the season would be super…..windowsill herbs, cool weather crops.

    Then maybe something about how to propagate plants from shrub cuttings or from azaleas, bay trees etc.

    Thanks again for this.

  9. Babs says:

    Winter is for reading in the NE. Catalogs with their beautiful enticing pictures, two shelves full of garden books I kept meaning to get to. My latest draw is “Monet’s Garden” by Vivian Russell which tells the story of saving Monet’s beloved Giverny after WW2 and the incredible support the Wallaces’ of Readers Digest fame contributed to the effort.

    I’m always looking for inspiring books so sharing favorites during the winter would be wonderful.

  10. Carol says:

    The practical stuff is fine during the growing season, but winter is when I want to dream, scheme, find inspiration.

    (You could *never* post too many photos of Jack. Really.)

  11. andrea verberkmoes says:

    Hi Margaret – I may be in the minority, but I am still actively vegetable gardening here in our mild Pacific Northwest. My vegetable garden has slowed, but is far from done. (Picked green beans for dinner this evening.) I have planted fall – to – winter vegies and will use row covers, etc, for when the weather gets severe in an attempt to harvest through out the winter months.
    I would love to learn more about producing food from a 12 month garden. I am very motivated due to endless food allergies and intolerances . ( Doc says if it has a label, I can’t eat it.) Anyway, my DH built a lovely greenhouse for the cause, and I have taken early retirement in order to devote myself to producing the food we eat. I use raised beds, cold frames, and greenhouse.
    Anything you have to say on the subject would be wonderful!

  12. Karen says:

    Inspired by Douglas Tallamy’s recent lecture here in Albany and then his book, “Bringing Nature Home”, I would appreciate some attention given to how we can encourage diversity of life in our gardens by incorporating more native plants. As Mr. Tallamy points out, we gardeners tend to think just in terms of a plant’s ornamental value rather than its importance in the ecosystem. He, with great humor by the way, is very empowering.
    I have been assessing my situation here in my gardens by doing an inventory of the natives, the invasives etc. with the intention of increasing the percentage of natives and removing the worst of the worst.
    -Would like to have ideas for working natives into garden design. Perhaps that would be of interest to others?

  13. Karen says:

    Thank you, Liz and Margaret! It sure seems to be a worthwhile effort to be good stewards of our land as we create the beauty. – adding to the depth of our pleasure as well as respectfully sharing with all the forms of life who are a part of the space.

  14. Philena Pugh says:

    Last winter it was building terrariums and making lists of coveted plants that got me through the Chicago winter. I’ve already purchased some small containers this year for the moss, miniature African violets, and ferns I plan to order.

  15. Bonnie says:

    Winter, in my gram’s words, is a time for us to take a break. There’s no gardening to do, no produce to be picked, canned, frozen, made into jam, and no lawns to mow. I spend my winters on my back enclosed porch which I fill with all my houseplants and turn it into my little oasis. I am an unpublished children’s story writer. I love to curl up out there with a cup of tea and write or read. All my gardening books are out there, so I look through every one of them coming up with new ideas to try out when spring finally arrives.
    As for my gardens now – I think I’ve finished all my fall chores. Here, on the shore of Lake Ontario, we have not had snow yet but we know it’s coming. I just had the first frost on the ground last week, but it didn’t hit my flowers. I still have alyssum, lavender, mums, cosmos, and snap dragons blooming.
    Next weekend I begin my wreath making business. I do it all – from cutting the trees down to decorating. I love it, but it takes up every second of my time so I really look forward to January.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Philena. I haven’t had a terrarium in years but always enjoyed the miniature magic of them. Good plan!

      Welcome, Bonnie. Funny how some of the flowers defy the first hard frosts, right? Thankful for that, but as you say, we know what’s coming…

      See you both soon again, I hope.

  16. Susan says:

    I would love to keep going all winter. It is Nov 17 and although there are lots of leaves to rake and it is in the mid-50s, I still have loads blooming. Just yesterday I hauled two loads of compost and one of mulch from the town compost and recycle center. (Residents can buy compost for $20 a truckload or mulch for $10 a truckload.) Monday I dug a new flowerbed and amended it. I expect to continue to dig and amend as long as I can. Usually it is a poor winter when I can’t work a little most weeks. Of course, sometimes I just choose to sit by the fire and read. Anyhow, I can use gardening community always. (I live in northwest Arkansas.)

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Susan. You sound VERY busy. :) We will keep going — onward together into winter, right? Thanks for your nice words.

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