Mt. Washington — Even as days are frigid and the sun is low, the gardener, cook, artist and nature enthusiast in each of us is always engaged with the beauty of flowers, fruits and vegetables that are plucked, pulled, cut or dug from the land. For the gardener, everything that is in the winter garden or in the house from last summer’s garden, now feeding body and spirit, informs plans for the new growing season.
Planted in autumn, vibrant green grass – winter wheat and rye – is alive under the snow blanket in many gardens and farms. Plush carpets are revealed when the snow cover is lost to rain. Above and below ground, grass blades and miles of fine roots are at work creating life-giving organic matter that will nourish soil organisms and improve tilth if turned into the ground in spring, or the grass will grow, flower and fruit, offering an early grain harvest.
In many Berkshire plots, full-grown parsnips are sweetening underground in neat rows and Jerusalem artichoke (sunchoke) tubers retain their food stores intact, ready for digging in springtime or prying now from the frozen ground. Garlic cloves, buried in October, have roots and shoots ready to grow a new crop. Perennial sage, lavender and thyme hold the snow blanket around their woody twigs alongside the stubble of monarda, vervain and echinacea, flowering native herbs.
At my place, an expanse of double dug, round-edged beds of heaped and shaped, friable earth looks like a progression of waves that swells under its snow blanket. Stars, the sunlit moon and planets circle the expanse of frozen, fertile ground during these long nights. There’s the sense of a night shift at work underground just as the efforts of the day shift create luxurious, above ground growth when days lengthen under the steady, brilliant light of our own star, the sun.
Through our gardens we sustain our health, sense of wonder, self-reliance and interdependence. This month, and next, right here, we’ll taste the storage crops of summers past and enjoy considering the seeds, seedlings, bulbs and tubers we will need for spring, summer and fall sowing in the New Year.