Years ago I would find myself in a funk after the holidays. By mid-January the malaise would set in. I didn’t really understand why I was sad. Actual life events were usually fine and not much different than before the holidays. I eventually realized that my mild depression was related to the dreary winter landscape, limited daylight and no garden activities.
I would find myself pining over slick pastel Easter images from home catalogs. I’d visit garden shops that mostly still had left over Christmas gear. I’d seek out gardens to visit that had good winter bones. And I’d plan for the spring with new garden designs and projects to transform my grass covered, sloping yard into something worth looking at. But although I enjoyed these activities, they didn’t lift my mood much. I wasn’t playing in the dirt, or watching plants grow or bloom.
When it finally hit me that maybe I could carve out a bit of space in our basement to grow seeds, my world changed. Really changed. Once my little grow system was up and running I went from dreading January to actually looking forward to it.
Getting set up was fairly straight forward once I figured out how to lay out the space. Figuring out electricity and water access were the first considerations. For Christmas that year all of my presents were seed-starting focused. By January I had the bare bones of a production set up. We set up shop lights on wooden Ikea shelving units for growing the seeds. Later I added timers to automate the light availability and heating mats to better manage the temperature for seed sprouting. I had a little potting bench and some seeds, trays and peat pods.
I don’t even know what I grew that first year. I had big plans though. Early on I would grow all sorts of perennial herbs. I tried mass producing ground cover plants. I would grow all different sorts of tomatoes. I’ve had some successes. And lots of failures. I would dream about all of the plants I could grow for pennies. All of the ways I could beautify the garden by growing my own plants rather than purchasing them fully grown from shops. Over the years I have found more of a rhythm in terms of what I grow. But what has been transformative for me has not been so much what I grow but rather the simple acts associated with growing seeds.
I gain sustainable joy from perusing seed catalogs, planning out seed start dates, playing in the dirt, planting the seeds, going down to the basement each morning to water and check up on my little plants. All of these activities have been enormously therapeutic to me. When the sparkle and excess of the holidays has passed, and the world outside just seems cold and dreary, having my little seedlings to sustain me has been life changing.
This January I am placing a newly emphasized emphasis on year-round food production. So exciting!