Garden Planning: The Cure for Winter Doldrums

In the dead of January, it can be particularly difficult to imagine that you’ll soon be needing to prepare the ground for planting.

by Dawn Combs
Beat the winter doldrums by planning your garden. Photo by Dawn Combs (
Photo by Dawn Combs

In the dead of January, it can be particularly difficult to imagine that you’ll soon be needing to prepare the ground for planting. Just last week, we had an arctic blast of record cold weather, and the snow was piled up high against the back door. Here in Ohio, it can be a bit easier. One thing that is well-known about Ohio is that the weather is quick to change. This week, we have temperatures in the 50s, and the rain is bringing up the smell of wet grass and exposed earth.

Of course, it is still the middle of January and I must resist the temptation to break out the Mainliner. Next week, it will be cold again and the intoxicating smells luring me out into the garden will be muted. In the meantime, I have to find a way to keep myself on this side of the patio doors.

Whiling Away Winter Hours
When I can’t garden, I plan my garden. I suppose when the technology age delivered us online farming and gardening games, many of my fellow sufferers found an outlet. I never got into the games. Instead, I spend my time designing the next space. Last winter, I curled up with my seed catalogs and planned out how I was going to plant our seven-circuit labyrinth in the front yard.

Next Year’s Garden
Right now, I’m sitting in the middle of my favorite catalogs: Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Territorial Seed Company, Horizon Herbs, Companion Plants and Seed Savers Exchange. The floor is littered with the possibility of food, medicine, color and texture. We will definitely be expanding several of our current medicinal plantings. Sage will figure prominently in this expansion, and will most likely escape from their boring rows and out into a modified knot garden. We are planning a formal rose garden and a kids’ garden, whose hedge will be entirely made up of elder (Sambucus canadensis). The food gardens will be even more intermixed this year with the herbs. I am always exploring new companion planting combinations in hopes of greater and greater bounty for the table.

One of my favorite spaces that awaits is our outdoor classroom. For Earth Day this year, we will be inviting our community to come and help us build the decking and plant all around. As I will be sharing about how to grow and use our plant allies within this space, it’s important that we surround it with native medicinals. My husband has his M.A. in Landscape Architecture, and I’ve promised to get out of his way and let him have full control. I can’t wait to see what this next year will bring.

Winter is not a time of dormancy. The plant holds its energy in the root, dreaming of the leaves it will send forth into the sunlight in the spring. So, too, are we holding space for the dream of our continuing relationship with the land we tend. Dream big! The land is waiting to fulfill your garden plans.

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