Montana is grey and gloomy in late winter. Each year at about the same time, I start getting cabin fever. When I think I can’t take much more, the seed catalogs start showing up! That’s when I dig out my garden journal, the sticky tabs and the colored pencils to start planning my summer garden.   It’s too early to do much, but it helps to create the suggestion of a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Going back over past years, I read my “notes to self” that I dutifully write when things go well or go awry. I chuckle at notes like “NO, NO, NO!!” scribbled in the margins beside things that didn’t quite work out as planned. 

After everything is planted, I sketch the layout.  (and yes, I color it with my colored pencils to entertain the child in me)  It always helps to see “what I did last year” – especially when I’m trying to figure out where the heck to plant my sugar snap peas or the zuchs. 

The seed catalogs are fun.  Once I’ve decided what I want to have in the garden, I look through each one to find just the right variety.  Our growing season is short and intense with very long, hot days. Several things that grow well in Texas – okra, tomatoes and peppers- struggle to fruit up here before the nights start cooling back down. We generally buy tomato and pepper plants from a nearby nursery, but okra is my ongoing challenge. I got a small crop one year when the growing conditions were just right. There was no surprise snow shower in June that year. Today I found a new hybrid okra plant that will grow in the North. I’m so excited, I could dance! 

Time to start the new page.  I got my colored pencils and sharpener out and, like a 3rd grader, drew & colored the first official page of 2010’s garden.   Please don’t judge my drawing, I did mention the 3rd grade thing, right?