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Gardening with Galligan: What works about winter

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO Look carefully. This is where you should be this winter when gardening thoughts come to mind. See you there.
Look carefully. This is where you should be this winter when gardening thoughts come to mind. See you there.

All around me, I hear complaints about how early it gets dark and so I write the following in an attempt to convince you how wonderful the dark really is. When it’s dark, you can’t work outside — isn’t that lovely?

With a perfectly clear conscience, you can sit down at 5 o’clock, something I really love to do. You can make a fire, pour a glass of white wine and put your feet up on the hearth, more things I love to do. You can’t do that in July! It’s still light outside at 5 o’clock, plenty of time to get some weeding in.


If you think of the dark as “undemanding,” you will be on your way to making friends with it. Since it’s a very significant portion of our lives, that’s a good thing to do. Two additional words come to mind when thinking about the dark — the first is dormancy and the second is hibernation.

Plants go dormant, animals hibernate. Do you think they’re trying to tell us something? Dormancy is defined as a time when growth and development are temporarily stopped, thereby helping an organism to conserve energy. Sounds good to me. Hibernation is a mechanism that mammals use to escape both cold weather and food shortages; we don’t have to worry about the latter, but again, “escaping cold-weather” sounds rather nice.

I know there are people and places where seasons don’t happen, and the people who live there actually like it that way, which I find truly amazing. When my son lived in California, I would visit once or twice a year, and the sight of a morning glory vine, as thick as my wrist, would stop me in my tracks. I didn’t know they could do that, but the fact is, they can. Not here, of course. Our plants are “dreaming deep.” My fellow gardeners, try to enjoy the dark. We need to rest as well.

Think about using your garden time in a way that, although you’re not gardening, will help your garden when next you do. If you are not computer literate, you are missing an entire world of excitement and information. Everything you ever wanted to know about a plant can be at your fingertips; you’ll never have to read my column again!

Mark Lindemann’s course at the Shelter Island Library is free, and you don’t have to buy a computer until you are really friends with one. There are six of them there and you can log on at any time. So if everything is free and you’re not working outside, what excuse could you possibly have?

I don’t want to hear anything about age. I am older than almost all of you and if I can do it, so can you.

You will be so happy when you get over being scared of it. When you find out what you’ve been missing, you’ll be annoyed with yourself for not starting sooner.

So goodbye for a while, dear friends, and enjoy the winter as I plan to do. Inshallah, we might meet again in spring.