Garden Dreams

Here in the Pacific Northwest we have had an unusually mild winter and an early spring. Many of the plants in my garden that normally die off have not, including my parsley and celery, and now in late February they’re coming back with new growth. Flowers are blooming, buds are budding, and people are working outside in shirtsleeves.

(I know that not everyone has had a mild winter this year. Last year winter in the Pacific Northwest was long and cold, with record snow accumulations. If you have struggled through the snow in the South you have my sympathies.)

This sunny, warm weather has me thinking of spring and my garden. I am hesitant to do much planting yet, because we could still get a cold snap. But I have started planning and dreaming of the warmer days that are coming fast. I have plans to expand my garden this year, as I mentioned in January, and I am considering what I would like to plant.

I am excited to plant this year, as I have tried saving my own seeds for the first time. Last fall I took the big, healthy seeds from my cucumbers, ground cherries and tomatoes. I rinsed the seeds and let them dry, and then stored them in paper packets in my garage where it is cool and dry. I did the same thing with some sugar pie pumpkins from the farmer’s market, and I received some blue hubbard squash seeds from a fellow gardener. This is the way that people have cultivated plants from time immemorial – by choosing and preserving the best seeds from their crops.

Harvesting garlic
My daughter Hannah helps harvest garlic in 2009

There are a lot of good reasons to garden. It gets you outside and gives you a connection to the earth. It teaches your kids where food comes from, and helps them to appreciate colors, flavors and textures in a whole new way. A tomato or carrot fresh from your own garden is something totally different than an out-of-season fruit or veggie shipped from far away. Gardening is also affordable – one $3 seed packet yields far more produce than $3 could buy you at the market, especially if you save your seeds or preserve that food to eat over the cold months.

Gardening is also the most environmentally-friendly way to produce food. Many of us count food miles in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of our dinner. No food has fewer miles than the food you grew yourself in your own yard. Food from your garden also comes without plastic packaging and tags and stickers and a refrigerated truck. If you also compost and avoid pesticides, you are really working overtime to contribute to a healthy planet.

I am far from an expert gardener. I tend to experiment and learn as I go. Not all of my plants survive, or produce large yields. Sometimes I overplant one thing or put veggies in a less-than-optimal location. But I’ve discovered that my failures are less important than my efforts. Jumping in and trying is the best way to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how many tomatoes my family will really eat. Even when things don’t go perfectly, I am constantly amazed by how tenacious life is, and how plants survive and thrive, frequently in spite of me.

What about you? Are you planning a garden this year, or do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear all about it!

You can catch up with Amber’s gardening adventures on her blog at

One Response to Garden Dreams
  1. Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves
    February 28, 2010 | 1:06 am

    I am planting a vegetable garden this year…and I have no idea what I’m doing! I tend to have horrible luck with growing plants from seeds but I have my fingers crossed this year. If it works and I get proper veggies I’ll be really excited.

    I’m also on the West Coast and since our winter has been so crazy warm I’ve been debating when I should plant my seeds. When are you planting your garden?