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. Matt says:

    Snow? We just got our first frosts last week in Delaware. I would kill for snow right now. The work never ends! I wouldn’t give all the fresh vegetables in the world for it though. I love the winter veg garden.

  2. terryk says:

    Funny Matt that you write “I would kill for snow right now. The work never ends!”. I think we up north are wishing for a few more warm days to finish up before winter really comes sneaking in the back door and lingers till March.

    Yes, keep posting Margaret. As a newbie here I will certainly look forward to reading your winter postings. Hope that camera heals quickly, we all enjoy your photos.

  3. Cary says:

    I would love to be reminded of when and to start veg seeds for spring planting. As a new transplant to eastern CT from SoCal, I was excited last spring to set out cole crop seedlings in April and my neighbor ambled over and said how cute it was that I was planting fall crops in spring, argh! Also, I planted in sterile medium and did not fertilize properly. Would really love details on when and how to fertilize. I used my own worm compost and think I diluted too much and applied too late. My brave seedlings began to turn pale green tout suite!

    Margaret, just love all your postings, whether winter or any other time. Please keep up the great work! Thanks!

  4. Julie says:

    Ooh–I know what I want to read next (in the meantime as I wait for your book to come out in February). Took a peek at your November 8, 2009 post–I love the sight of a work table–and made out the Pema Chodron book, _Comfortable With Uncertainty_, on your desk. I’m almost done with Jack Kornfield, _The Wise Heart_. Thanks for the visual reading tip! Being “comfortable with uncertainty” is such a good gardening lesson during the winter–when you see the bare ground and wonder if the plants have gone for good. Those with gardening experience have practiced the faith of knowing they are still there, alive, but not visible.

  5. kathy says:

    Your postings remind me of everything I either want to do or need to do while I stuck at work. I especially appreciate them in January and February when it seems spring will never return.

  6. Val says:

    I am definitely in the hibernate camp. I’m tired! I spent so much time, energy, money, as well as blood (literally), sweat, and tears on my garden from spring to fall that I am looking forward to the break. I have mulched, weeded, removed spent plants, planted anew, and even popped a couple hundred or so bulbs into the ground.
    This winter, I’ll focus on my home–and read again–and the garden will still be there providing some roots and greens in the meantime. I’ll throw a plastic cover over it when we get a hard freeze.
    I jumped the gun and did a lot of planning for next year already, so I have a lot to look forward to in spring.
    My one task: Santa is bringing me a light setup so I can start seeds indoors.

  7. Brian G. says:

    Yesterday I pulled out the blackened tomato vines (so much green fruit still on them!) and planted garlic and leftover tulips during the wind/sleet/snow/rain combo. Still so much to do before breaking out the snow shovel including having two giant pines felled before they ‘fell’ my little house this winter. It does feel good though to retreat into a warm house after being out in the cold and wet. That is one of the great pleasures of the season to come.

  8. I say ‘to hell with hibernation!’ Let’s talk about out inspirations and cultivate our ‘inner gardens’ this winter!! There is way too much to talk about. Keep posting. Onward. Onward.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Mario. To hell indeed. Onward we shall go.

      Welcome also to Val. Though you say “hibernate,” when I read your comment closely I have the sneaking suspicion that you will not be averse to reading a garden post now and then while you wait for spring. :)

      See you both soon — even if it’s the technical “offseason,’ yes?

  9. I’ll be planning and plotting my garden for next year, what new plants I can score, my hosta orders for 2011, in my spare time. Winter is the time of the year that I turn to art. Jewelry, beads, lapidary, painting, whatever strikes my imagination. And I’ll probably knit a pair or two of socks while I’m at it. And….if weather permits, I’ll be outside…..doing……something.

  10. Lynn Bay says:

    I am planning a new garden pond and will be exploring all the neat new plants that will be beneficial to the wildlife in this area.

  11. Burndett Andres says:

    Please, Margaret, keep on keeping on throughout all the seasons. I check your site everyday because I love to “peek into other peoples windows” and your “window” is so cozy, interesting, and welcoming. I learn something new on every visit and your subtle humor is right up my street. I’m sure I will find your “off-season activities” just as edifying as the gardening information you share so generously. I’m really looking forward to curling up with your book and thanks for taking the time to share on this blog.

  12. Well my garden honestly seems to be doing its own thing at the moment. I plan to head back into the garden in February (obviously checking on it through winter) but last year we had our snow in January so I can’t see me doing much before then. But I love your posts, and look forward to continuing to learn.

  13. hnybnch says:

    After all the clean-up is done (maybe by mid-December), I’ll take a break before winter-sowing asters, snake root, jumpseed to revive my woodland understory in Westchester County. It’s hilly and after many years of deer browsing, there’s hardly anything left to hold the leaf litter or soil in place against the wind or heavy rain. I tried winter-sowing the first time last winter and was blown away by the success rate (so far) of the plants I transplanted. A few more seasons and there might be enough critical mass so they can sustain themselves. Also trying seeds of bottlebrush buckeye, redbud and calycanthus (which I planted), all very happy on the woodland edge.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Hnybnch. I want to learn more about winter sowing — I hear more and more gardeners talk about their successes with it. Thanks for the reminder.

  14. Val says:

    Yes–my hibernation is completely of the physical sort–a hot chocolate, fuzzy slipper, and fireplace deal. Talking and sharing about gardening plans is a great way to get through the winter!

  15. Barb says:

    Outdoor photography! Your photos are stunning. Would you mind sharing the type of camera you use, although I know equipment is in the hands of the artist. Even the whiskers of Jack show well on your posts! (Also a cat lover)

  16. Michelle says:

    I’d love to hear your thoughts this winter on what worked this season, what didn’t work, what’s new in 2011, some design ideas, … happy mulching!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Michelle. Happy mulching to you, too. :) I am looking forward to the catalogs to get the ideas flowing, and am glad that you will be here to look along with me.

      @Barb: It’s a Nikon D700; I used to use a less-serious one until this spring, the D40-X, which I loved and I have turned many friends on to. I don’t know very much about taking pictures, but it bring me great pleasure and connects me more deeply to the garden, that much I can say. And without my camera, I wouldn’t really be able to create this site, so it is really a precious possession (which happens to be int he shop the last week — UGH!).

  17. jody says:

    I am sure that we can find garden-y things to dream and talk about as the frost gathers around us! You are our garden-peter-pan, so we’ll be looking to you to keep the thread connected! (such a heavy burden, eh?) Jack is cute. I have a Bella who could be a sibling. My sister bought me a Bay Plant and I abhor indoor plants BUT maybe we could find something of interest in indoor gardening ….

  18. Janet says:

    I’d love the occasional review of new gardening books on the market. It’s always fun to curl up in the dead of winter with a beauty of a gardening book. And your photos of course — how about a daffodil say mid February?

  19. Patti May says:

    I vote for “onward”. Your blog always gives me hope for Spring’s arrival. Plus it is the best time to read about new ideas, new plants, and get our questions answered!

    Perhaps a book discussion……!


  20. Karla says:

    I laughed about Santa bringing that other gardener the light set-up. Santa brought me one many moons ago–I’m now thinking of donating it to a worthy cause. Too little sun anymore, too few results and too many farmers markets to make it worth my while. But as gardeners we all go through phases and I would not have traded that one–it was quite fun while it lasted.

    Of course you must continue to post because as gardeners don’t we continue to garden and observe? This week I’m posting on Project Feederwatch–a great winter project for gardeners. There’s also converting the garden to a habitat for NWF–most gardeners already qualify I’m sure–and yes, houseplants and tropicals. How about some unusual holiday house plants?

    And winter reading–I think we all do that–those of us that can’t garden in the winter.

    Love the blog.

  21. Monica says:

    What about gardening and landscaping for difficult sites? You have the patio I’ve been dreaming about since we bought our house three years ago. Winter is when I dream of flat expanses for sitting, grilling and entertaining. We have no flat areas! And I have no idea where to begin. I’m probably not alone. :-)

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Monica. I have no level spots except the one(s) I created, so that’s a good idea, thank you. For me it was easier to create the terrace above the ground level than to carve out a flat place. Will ponder topics like that!

  22. Linda says:

    My connection to other gardners ( through you) has been such an inspiration. It’s comforting to hear how passionate you all are. Perhaps we could talk about great gardening books? These are some of the books I just recently finished:
    Second Nature by Michael Pollan – thank you Margaret for recommending it. Loved it! Then I read A Patchwork Garden by Sydney Eddison and will begin her new book – Gardening for a Lifetime. I also bought others to keep me company during the long cold winter. If you love gardening you’ll love these books.

    I’m looking forward to the winter because I’m exhausted and my knees and back hurt, so I could use a forced reprieve!

    How about forcing bulbs or indoor plants – maybe orchids???

    Love hearing from you.

  23. June says:

    I enjoy everything on your website! I look forward to more reading all the time. I am a garden lover and feel that it does wonders for spirituality. Here in the garden I am relaxed. Working is not a job its rewards. God paints beautiful pictures everyday, and I want to do the same. Yours, exquisite!

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