Spring, I Await Thee
my kitchen windows the wind, ice and snow help drop the wind
chill to temperatures beyond 10 degrees below zero. A stacked
stone wall stands patiently along the garden, a crust of snow
forming its top layer, warming slightly in the low sun of
the day, rising to nowhere near the freezing point. I nudge
two crystals hanging down into the light passing through the
double panes of window glass and watch streaks of rainbows
swing about the kitchen, soon settling into a stationary pattern.
With the outside world immobilized in a deep freeze, I begin
my annual fantasy of fertility and fruitfulness guided by
some enticing publications delivered through the mail.
For the last month I have been receiving dozens of seed catalogues,
providing rich fodder for spring fantasies. Each year the
catalogues start arriving a couple of weeks before the winter
solstice and keep landing in my mailbox until about the second
week in January. I keep them in a pile, and around this time
of year start to flip through their pages to see what potential
wonders may rise forth from my future spring garden.
As I kept the stove in my fireplace hot with red embers and
a constant feed of seasoned wood, I pulled out my current
stack of colorful catalogues. Sitting in front of the hot
stove, I began my annual journey into fantasies of colorful
gardens heavy with fruiting vegetables and blossoming flowers.
In the coldest days of the year, these fantasies provide me
with a mental getaway from the aging ice and blustering cold
of the outdoors. I begin my 2004 garden plans with a simple
mix of hope, perseverance, and faith that the thawed earth
of spring will come.
Planning involves thinking ahead, trying to foresee what might
be and how to transform fantasy into reality. With the raised
beds of my garden frozen and topped with a layer of crusty
snow, itís a little difficult to even remember those past
warm days of green leaves and fresh edibles. In order to insure
a rich garden bounty in the coming year, figuring out what
to plant means thinking about seeds.
Seeds have always amazed me. That so much can so quickly rise
out of so little certainly seems miraculous and worthy of
awe. The ability of plants to transform dirt, water, air and
sunlight into fruits, herbs and vegetables is real alchemy.
That a tomato seed weighing in at about four-thousandths of
a gram can, in a few short months, produce a rambling vine
loaded with fruit weighing more than 10 pounds is truly wondrous.
While wandering through the possibilities of seed catalogues,
it is important to keep in mind the dimensions of the planting
space youíll have in the spring. In my small patch of rich
dirt, I prefer to grow leafy vegetables, cherry tomatoes,
snow peas and chili peppers. My intensive planting methods
allow my modest plot to produce a substantial harvest beyond
the bounds of the local growing season.
I prefer to use organic seeds and to plant heirloom varieties.
Large multinational corporations like Monsanto and Pioneer
are trying to control the seed market with genetically engineered
seeds that will reduce plant diversity and not produce viable
seeds. Because of the efforts of these large corporate interests,
my preference for organic and heirloom varieties is now also
a struggle to support genetic diversity as well as to produce
nutritious and tasty food. Growing your own can also substantially
reduce the energy and chemical inputs associated with produce
in comparison with supermarket offerings. It gives you more
control over what goes into your food. Gardening also has
well documented benefits for both oneís physical and mental
Before cruising the seed catalogues, I take a quick survey
of the seeds I have from prior years. Many of these are still
viable and donít require replacement. I save empty seed packets
from the previous growing season to know what needs replenishing.
I keep my seed packets in a recycled wooden box that once
held clementine tangerines. I added a few dividers that allow
the seed packets to stand upright, which makes them easier
to sort through.
From my 2004 pile of catalogues, I highly recommend three.
All three have Web sites that provide additional offerings
and useful gardening tips. Each is dedicated to sustaining
plant genetic diversity and supports organic agriculture.
They also carry organically produced seeds, foster the perpetuation
of heirloom vegetables and eschew genetically engineered varieties.
All three also make available gardening tools, soil enhancements
and other products related to the garden.
of Change (P.O. Box 15700 Santa Fe, NM 87592-1500, 888
762-7333, www.seeds ofchange.com) sells only certified organic
seeds, offering over 600 varieties. They maintain a research
farm just north of Santa Fe where they cultivate over a thousand
organic varieties. Their listings include background information
on varieties, their hardiness, drought tolerance and the number
of seeds to expect in a packet, most of which cost $2.49.
A discount is available with Internet orders.
(P.O. Box 520 Waterville, ME 04903-0520, 207 873-7333, www.fedcoseeds.com)
is a 26-year old cooperative that offers organic and non-organic
seeds with an ordering deadline of April 2. They support sustainable
agriculture, maintain many heirloom varieties and make available
a good selection of soil enhancements and organic fertilizers.
They clearly indicate organic varieties, often include interesting
historical information in listings and indicate the number
of seeds per packet which cost from $0.80 to $1.00.
Selected Seeds (955 Benton Ave. Winslow, ME 04901-2601,
207 861-3901, www.johnnyseeds.com) has been offering organic
and non-organic seeds for over thirty years. They operate
a certified organic farm in Albion, Maine and have a program
to make seed contributions to charitable organizations involved
in gardening projects. Organic varieties are clearly marked,
with seed packets ranging in cost from $2 to $4.
So, as the cold winds of winter blow, I think forward toward
the spring to come.