Hope- "to look forward to with confidence or expectation" or "the theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to obtain with God's help."
One of my favorite gardening tasks is planting seeds. There's something amazing about taking a few little brown specks (like the Columbine seeds on the right), putting them in some wet soil and then waiting with expectation for the exciting event that follows- the tiny, delicate green seedlings. When I put seeds in the ground, I know there's no guarantee that they'll germinate and grow. Things can go wrong. But I'm pretty sure that at least one of those little guys is going to do what it was made to do if I plant it correctly and give it everything it needs. So I wait and watch expectantly. Sowing seeds makes me feel hopeful.
So this past week, I finally had time for the best kind of seed sowing- winter sowing. Why is it the best? Because what could be more hopeful in the middle of a Syracuse winter (especially one dominated by the "Arctic vortex") than planting some seeds and dreaming of spring. Somehow this stretches and thrills me a bit more than planting some bean seeds on a balmy day in May.
Winter sowing is a method invented and popularized by Trudi Davidoff on her website wintersown.org (a great resource). The beauty of this technique is that it provides a simple and cheap way to start seeds in winter so that you have lots of lovely little seedlings to plant when spring rolls around. (It's much cheaper to buy a packet of perennial seeds than to purchase the plants from a nursery). This technique works best with seeds that need a period of chilling in the ground in order to germinate. Here are some lists of seeds you can winter sow. I generally winter sow perennial flower seeds that are hardy in our zone (5b) in January and February as you can see here, but you can also winter sow some veggies. Hardy greens (like chard, kale and spinach) can be started in mid-March as well as some of the hardier herbs (thyme, parsley and oregano). Tomatoes can be started in April along with some other tender annuals, but these seedlings may need some extra protection (a cozy blanket overnight if there's a big temperature drop in spring). Here's the basic process:
Hope this helps you get excited about the prospect of starting some of your favorite perennials, veggies and annuals even before the warm weather hits. Sowing seeds in winter really satisfies the gardener in me. I'm looking ahead with joyful anticipation for the lush sweetness of spring. The contemplative part of me has also been pondering the way this simple process gives me practice in the second kind of hope described at the top of my post. Hoping in the smaller things somehow trains me to hope for those things that are a little more difficult to imagine coming to fruition. It exercises my trust in the One who wants the best for me- even when the hard stuff of life drags on and spring seems pretty far away.
Those lovely blue Delphiniums to the right......some of my winter sown beauties brightening up my sun garden. Happy winter sowing!