Even with spring in sight, we’re still stuck in the long dark tunnel of winter. It’s still not yet time to sow. The ground is still wet and cold. It’s over the winter months that many people experience cabin fever – that irritable restless feeling which comes from being stuck inside for too long. But gardeners, with our connection to the outdoors and love of wildlife, seem to suffer more than most. We need space and light and activity; humans don’t thrive in a confined environment.
There’s only one cure for cabin fever – get outside. It sounds relatively simple. The cure to the problem is, literally, right outside your front door. However, if you’re like me, you leave for work in the darkness and arrive home in the darkness. Up here in the Pacific Northwest where I live, the nights don’t properly lengthen out until March. I do love my garden, but I draw the line at gardening by headlamp.
So, how can the gardener beat cabin fever in the winter months? What can we do until spring arrives? Here’s a few things to keep you distracted.
Research has suggested that people who look at photos and actively reminisce about their holidays, can extend that holiday feeling “glow”. If it can work for holidays, why not the garden? I take lots of pictures throughout spring and summer to chart the progress of my garden. It often helps to have photos when you’re planning borders for the next year. In winter, I often revisit these photos just to remind me that the northern hemisphere will, eventually, tilt back toward the sun.
I do love to break out a pack of colored pencils and a blank sheet of A4. With a good plant encyclopedia in hand, winter is the perfect time to rework border schemes and develop plant lists for purchase in spring. This year, I’ll be taking a leaf out of Alys Fowler’s book The Edible Garden – I’m going to try to work more vegetables into my flower borders. I love growing veg and I’m running out of room. Her take on a modern potager is romantic and beautiful. Why can’t I have my garden and eat it too?
I have a short attention span. This means that, when I’m gardening, I often wander off in the middle of one task to begin another. All the jobs in my garden get taken care of, just not always in the correct order. This means I can be guilty of leaving a tool on top of a fence post overnight, or losing a trowel in a bucket of compost. Now is the time to line up your tools and get out the metal file, sandpaper, and general-purpose oil. Rub off any rust on tools with a wire brush. Take care with sharpening blades and secateurs; anything extensively rusted should be replaced. Try a bit of linseed oil on wooden handles – it helps to protect and nourish the wood.
Of course, if all else fails, turn on Monty Don. He is back with a new season of Big Dreams, Small Spaces. Monty’s calm voice is a soothing balm in a confused and increasing chaotic world. Turn off the rest of the noise and Tune in to Monty. If you do, everything will make more sense. Listen, Learn, Enjoy!