Source: Sherman Publications

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Wild Ideas A column by Mary Keck
Winter gardening?

by Mary Keck

January 23, 2013

While some critters hibernate, local gardeners don't. Instead, growers are planning, learning, gathering together, and flexing their green thumbs indoors.

"There's reading to do to keep the ongoing education refreshed," said Clarkston Community Garden Manager Jim Tesnar. Since winter's chill has blown in, Tesnar's looking through seed catalogs to find new hybrids and varieties.

He keeps an eye on the temperature too. Once the ground freezes, Tesnar will cover his strawberry plants with straw. In late March, he'll pull the mulch back to make way for a new batch of strawberries.

Roots to Fruits co-owner Mark Angelini feels the colder season gives gardening ideas a chance to germinate. "I spend time reading and researching, ordering seeds and plant stock, eating lots of stored produce and pickles, reviewing garden plans and designs and formulating a game plan for the upcoming season," he said.

But don't think rooting through catalogs, reading, and researching gives growers cabin fever. Instead, they often seek out one another. "The monthly Oakland County Permaculture Meetup is a fantastic social gathering, plus we have skill shares for seed starting, vermicomposting, and a seed swap," Angelini said. The Oakland County Permaculture Meetup occuring in Clarkston once a month is just one event attracting green thumbs.

American Roots owner Trish Hennig attends "upcoming presentations locally sponsored by our North Oakland chapter of Wild Ones, but also on a state level we have the WAM (Wildflower Association of Michigan) conference with nationally recognized as well as Michigan-based speakers," she explained.

When growers aren't together, you might find them testing farming methods at home. For gardener Lacie Greives winter is a time for experimentation. She's trying out seeds collected from her flowers and vegetables over the summer. If sprouts emerge under her indoor light, she'll know they have spring planting potential. If nothing happens, she'll need to order new seeds.

In addition, "I plan for crop rotation," Greives said. Greens don't grow well in the same patch of soil year after year, so Grieves keeps track of where she's planted during the previous season. While the snow falls outside, she'll think of new places for next season's veggies.