It's almost a cliche image; a gardener on a dreary February night huddled over a dimly lit table strewn with tattered envelopes and ziploc bags containing sprinklings of saved seeds. Some are labeled, some blank, some obvious in their contents, some complete mysteries. In between sips of hot tea or cocoa the gardener fumbles through these artifacts of last year's garden. While the cold winter drizzle patters on the glass the dreamer looks out the fogged window and tries to remember spring. Returning his focus to the table he sweeps away the collection and flops on that table the graven images of bounty, seed catalogues. Without seed catalogues many northern gardeners might not make it through winter. Without brightly colored pictures of impossibly perfect tomatoes and green beans many would just curse the gray skies, throw another log on the fire and say: "forget it". Though I am in a totally different circumstance, I find myself in the same state of dependence. I need a seed catalogue right now. I am not warming my hands on a hot cup of tea, dreaming of spring. I am holding a glass of iced coconut water to my forehead dreaming of fall. The heat outside is withering not just the garden, but the gardener as well. Every task seems like hard labor and discouragement comes quickly. I miss the cool mornings. I miss the gentle sun, low in the sky. I miss broccoli.
Enter the catalogue. Sitting directly under the air conditioning vent I can thumb through page after page of cool season crops and remember that fall will come again. I am reminded of crisp carrots and sweet snap peas. In my mind I can plan new beds and build new trellises, all without breaking a sweat. This is the time to think of fall. If you wait until it's cool outside, you will be too late. My favorite seed supplier is Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds. They have a great catalogue and their seeds are pretty reliable. This is what I will be ordering for our winter garden:
kale, broccoli, cabbage, romanesco, collards, celery, snap beans, snap peas, sweet peas (the flowers), lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, onion, carrots, beets and turnips.
Even though we won't plant them for a while I'll include some tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in my order.
Of course for each plant listed above there are several (for some, hundreds) of varieties available. Choosing is difficult, so is restraint.
Some of what grows in our garden can be grown from seed saved the previous year. Waiting for school to start are envelopes and jars with seeds of purple broccoli, purple cauliflower, parsley, dill, snow peas, hollyhocks and poppies.
Now is the time to dream of cooler days. Now is the time to plan. Browse through a catalogue (or go online) and place an order. Believe it or not, Summer won't last forever. Winter is coming.