Winter Winds and Spring Gardens

Emilee Gettle talks about winter hitting the homestead, and what you can begin doing — even surrounded by ice — to plan for your spring garden.

Emilee Gettle

Editor, author, and homesteader Emilee Gettle at work in her garden.

Photo by Brian Dunne

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Dear friends,

The cold winter wind whips around our seed store rattling the nearby barn doors and picking up leaves and carrying them to the valley where our gardens grow. Flower seed heads shake in the breeze and the limbs of our apple trees bend under the weight of ice. It's hard to believe that just a few months ago we were complaining about a seemingly endless drought and unbearable heat. There is a bit of spinach that is still managing to survive the bitter weather, which we enjoy nibbling on during our chilly evening walk.

Following our walk, I can use our own frozen and canned vegetables for dinner. After being spoiled with homegrown fruits and vegetables, it’s pure torture to endure a winter without remembrances of summer's bounty. So, with each meal, we’re able to add a touch of summer back to our plate by cooking our preserved abundance.

Even though the garden lies sleeping for a season, we are eagerly anticipating spring once again. Winter is the perfect time to get a head start on next year's garden. If you've grown your own produce by purchasing plants at your local nursery, that's wonderful. However, I encourage you to try starting a few varieties in your own home. There is such a sense of satisfaction picking fruit from plants you've started yourself! In this issue refer to Shelley Stonebrook’s article “Seed Starting Made Easy” on page 8 for some handy tips and tricks to ensure a bountiful harvest!

Also, winter is the perfect time to be proactive. Take some time to curl up by the fire with a good book that profiles pests that plague your garden. Many times these books also offer natural and organic alternatives to chemical pest killers that you can make yourself. Grab a book devoted to organic pesticide recipes and dog-ear the most pertinent pages for quick reference. When planting season rolls around, you won't be caught off guard when the pests make their spring debut.

As we pull out our calendar for the new year, don't forget to save the date for our Spring Planting Festival in Mansfield, Missouri, which will be held May 5-6, 2013. Our annual event features the largest heirloom plant sale in America! You won't want to miss out on thousands of rare and unusual heirloom seedlings, as well as Ozark crafters and historic musicians.

Also, later in the year, don't forget about the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California: September 10, 11, and 12. Farmers from several states bring their mouthwatering, heirloom produce by the truckload to display at this historic event which celebrates the heirloom harvest. Over 15,000 guests attended the Heirloom Expo in 2012! Nationally acclaimed guest speakers share their expertise at both the Spring Planting Festival and Heirloom Expo to teach you how to become a more accomplished heirloom gardener!

Most likely by the time you're reading this issue, my family and I will be combing the hills and valleys of Europe visiting farms, searching for more heirloom seed varieties native to the region and attending Slow Food's Terra Madre in Turin, Italy. I can't wait to share the photos and stories from our expedition with you in the Spring issue! Until then, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a bountiful new year!

God Bless,
Emilee


Emilee Gettle is married to Jere, mother to Sasha, and lives a full life of gardening, crafting and homesteading. She has the distinct pleasure of associating with some of America’s most interesting people — heirloom and organic farmers.