Winter is a necessary season but do I stop to recognize its many hidden miracles? I find myself a little more isolated, introspective, and occasionally melancholy. The thought of winter gardening can create the same sentiments, but only temporarily. Just when I think gardening is complete, nature reminds me otherwise.
“Each moment of the year has its own beauty, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Philosopher and Poet 1803-1882
Reconnect and Heal
I have found many miracles while in my garden. In fact, my garden has been the place I have most treasured over the past two years. After stepping away from a career of nearly 20 years, to say I had to “find myself” would be an understatement. The shift is hard but I find solace while in my garden. Although my garden has been fruitful, it has never been solely about the fruits and veggies. My garden allows me time to think, reconnects me to nature, and gives physical healing from the soil to the sun. To me, it is a miracle place.
It Started Indoors
Maybe my love for gardening began with the African Violet plant that one of my students gave me years ago. It has remained in the same south-facing kitchen window since I brought it home and it blooms almost year-round. I’ve since added a few too many houseplants (or maybe just enough!). They are proven air purifiers and add a sense of calm to a room. Winter has little effect on them as they continue to offer so much to us.
Kale, Collards, and Freshness
Not to be overlooked, the winter garden offers beautiful green leafy vegetables that nourish us and brighten the garden. The first seeds I plant in my winter garden are collard greens. It is simply a must for a fall and winter garden, especially if you live in the south. After a few light touches of frost, the greens become sweeter and are ready to be picked, cooked, and served on New Year’s Day. When paired with black-eyed peas it is said you will have luck and wealth in the coming year…worth a shot! I also grow plenty of radishes, kale, and a variety of lettuces. There just isn’t much that is better than cutting your own greens and eating them the very same day. Just when I think it is too cold to garden, nature reminds me otherwise.
Chilly, Fresh Air
In the winter my garden requires a little different focus. My mind has to shift to protection more than maintenance. As the nights get colder, I find myself checking the lows and highs each day. While my mind says it is too cold to go out, nature reminds me otherwise. Even though most of what I plant is fairly hardy, I do cover the more tender plants with an agri-cloth when the temperature dips below freezing. Some may think of this as a bother but I love the focus required and the opportunity to get outside in the chilly air and take care of the place that gives me so much.
Nature Goes Deep
The miracle of winter gardens is one that is so easily ignored or forgotten altogether. Nature is very much alive. It may be passing through or waiting out the winter. Either way, nature continues. Hibernation and migration are most commonly thought about but did you know that many birds and insects overwinter in our gardens and lawns? They may be buried deep or simply nesting in the leaves, but many are there, and knowing this requires respect for the ground and simply learning to leave some areas alone. I’ve had to rethink the idea of a clean garden. The summer plants and fall leaves return to the earth and offer a safe haven for many organisms so I’ve decided to let nature look like nature so that nature can continue and prepare itself for the coming spring.
“Every gardener knows under the cloak of winter lies a miracle – a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”Barbara Winkler, American Author
Let Nature Remind Us Otherwise
I am thankful for the gift of nature and the time I have been given to appreciate its benefits. While winter can be challenging, I know there is beauty and healing in every season and this one just requires a little extra care. Emotional health, stress relief, exercise, the warmth of the sun, and time to reflect are just a few benefits I have appreciated while winter gardening. Joy really does await in the natural world if our eyes are open to see the miracles that far outrank the struggles.