2011, A New Year Of Gardening

07 Jan

A New Year of Gardening, by Renea Winchester 

The weatherman reports that Atlanta could see another dusting of snow. Which caused my spirits to sink. I know the kids are excited at the possibility of playing in the white stuff, but I am ill-equipped to handle dreary weather when it dips “down south.” 

When the weather turns icy I can think of nothing better than to curl up on the couch and read the latest release. I’m not talking about what the New York Times list tells us we should read. I’m referring to the stack of seed catalogues that receive top priority during the month of January. 

My parent's "lettuce bed."

With pen in hand and sticky notes ready, I thumb through each magazine. This is the year, I convince myself, that my garden will surpass those I see on the cover of a magazine. I’ll begin by planting a salad bed (which, by the way, should be planted fairly soon here in the south). It will produce a rainbow of  leafy goodness. Not the boring “lettuce” and “mustard” like my parents grow. We’ll have none of that in my garden. Oh no, my salad “bed” will be exotic.                   

I’ll have a garden filled with lettuce no one can pronounce: Purple Mizuna and Rouge d’Hiver, and a touch of Skyphos (to add some pink to the mix). This year, I’ll sprout my own wheat grass (have you checked out the prices of wheat grass lately?), I’ll give Dill one more try and plant Chamomile, primarily because I noticed a charming Chamomile Rake that seems to be the smartest invention since the sticky notes that now color the pages of the catalog. 

My Dad on his Bowen "tractor." You would not believe how hard both work to create a beautiful garden.

I’ll draw out my design and plant the seeds with care. I’ll call my dad and brag because my planting season in Georgia begins a few weeks before his in North Carolina. He’ll laugh, because he knows that regardless of what I plant or when, his little Bowen tractor has worked the ground into a powdery consistency that grows anything he darn well pleases. 

As an aside, last week he worked two truckloads of nearly-rotten sawdust into his garden. That’s his secret.

Find sawdust in Atlanta.  Go ahead, I dare you.

So with my purchased soil that has been fortified with fireplace ashes and a bit of goat manure, I once again begin the quest to grow something…anything better than those who’ve much greater experience than I.

Let's be honest. There is a 99.9% chance my garden will look like this, instead of my Dad's.

I’ll begin the growing season filled with hope and ignore the card which sits at the corner of the desk. This year my dream garden will become a reality. 

Enjoy those seed catalogs and remember, keep those hands dirty!

Renea Winchester is a two-time winner of the Appalachan Writer’s Award for Essay. Her work  has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Georgia Backroads, Smoky Mountain Living and Long Leaf Style, Georgia Magazine as well as Georgia Public Radio 90.1 FM. She is a frequent contributor to and Her memoir, In The Garden With Billy: Lessons about Life, Love and Tomatoes, was released October 2010,  by Little Creek Books.   She may be reached through her website.


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One response to “2011, A New Year Of Gardening

  1. Martha A. Neal

    January 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Just read your article about Billy in the Georgia Magazine…how delightful to read about my second cousin…sat at family reunions and talked with him many times…a fine man and so glad to see you and your daughter have gleaned from his expertise. I did not know about the book until I read the article. I will be purchasing the book. When you see Billy tell him his cousin Anette Etris Neal said hello and congratulations on finding people who appreciate him and his life of love..not many of us left who still enjoy a quieter lifestyle. Thank you for this effort to honor a man of character!


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