I start thinking about gardening when the calendar says it’s mid-February. The days are getting longer and the temperature reaches into the forties and on the rare day into the fifties. It’s hard not to daydream about the smell of rich loam, my hands in the warm soil and seedlings lifting their heads reaching for the sun.
My dad had built a greenhouse that attached two parts of our house together. He’s the one responsible for my green thumb. We would pour over the Burpee’s seed catalog making out our list for what to grow. He would always pick one or two varieties of vegetables or flowers that we hadn’t tried in the past. Something we thought of as exotic. I remember bright flowers, odd shaped squash, different colored tomatoes and one year we grew our own popcorn. Gloves were required to shuck the ears. Those kernels were sharp.
Last week I was in our local Menard’s store. Even though it was way too early in the season I walked through the lawn and garden section and stopped at the seed rack. Browsing through the vegetables, I found a pack of bush zucchini seeds. I prefer this type because they work best in small gardens – no long vines trailing all over the place. Then I picked out three types of lettuce, along with parsley and dill. Now those seed packets are sitting on the kitchen counter waiting, waiting, waiting for May and planting time.
This year I tried wintering over a pot of oregano and one of lemon thyme. The oregano gave up during the dark days of December and the lemon thyme is just hanging on. When I walk by, I give it a gentle brush and then breathe in the lemon aroma. Ahhh. Close my eyes and its springtime.
Buying tomatoes in the winter is a form of denial and self-delusion. They look delicious; red and firm, but one bite and the illusion goes right out the window. I’m looking forward to standing in the garden, the warm sun on my back and brushing the dust off a newly picked tomato and eating it like an apple. My favorite is a good meaty Roma. I find the ‘slicers’ too watery for my taste. The cherry tomatoes ripen first and, as far as I’m concerned, should be considered garden snack food. One or two in the cheek while hoeing and weeding makes everything better.
The snow continues to fall and the nights are long and cold. But winter’s reign is coming to an end. Daybreak comes a little earlier and twilight stays a little longer. Every day the sun is warmer and soon I’ll be standing in the garden, smiling and watching the vegetables grow.