Garden dreams to pull us through January


Every year, we try to get our seed order ready by about the end of January. (We like to start planting early–getting hardy stuff in the ground under cold frames, and planting tomatoes and other summer crops in cell packs, to be nurtured indoors under grow lights.) At this time of year, we’re dwelling in the possibility of what our garden might be, and in our imaginations, it’s bursting with lush foliage and fat fruits of all kinds.

Seed catalogs are the engine of our planning. We’ve been receiving the Johnny’s catalog for a number of years now (I even have my favorite photos that show up in edition after edition). They’ve supplied most of our garden seeds since we planted in a former cow pasture in 2003, and for the most part we’ve had good luck with them. We’ve also heard good things about Fedco, and somehow we got on the Pinetree Garden Seeds and Burpee mailing lists too.

But, in the interest of going ever more local, we’re probably going to do much of our ordering through Southern Exposure Seed Exchange this year. They’re located in Louisa and they specialize in heirloom varieties adapted to the Mid-Atlantic region. Growing non-hybrid crops means we can eventually get closer to the ultimate ideal: saving all our own seeds rather than buying them. (We’ve already done a little seed trading–that’s how seed savers get to try out new varieties!)

I’d kind of miss the January catalog browsing, though. It’s so refreshing to look at those photos of abundant produce when everything is brown outside. And I like the back-and-forth of it: getting jazzed about six new types of tomatoes, a few different lettuces, herbs we’ve never even heard of…then confronting the reality of our small plot and the choices it forces us to make.

So far, our most exciting plans for garden additions in 2011 are a whole bed of dry beans (probably black; we eat lots of those), an asparagus patch (!), and the Mexican herb epazote, which we can’t find fresh in local stores.

Gardeners, what are you dreaming of? Anyone planning a big expansion this year?