I enjoy all the seasons, but I like winter in late December when bare trees are a novelty and weather forecasters hint at the promise of snow every time a cloud comes out of the west.
By February, the sight of bare trees is about as welcome as my monthly light bill. I get a terminal case of cabin fever, and I long to fire up my ancient Ford tractor and plow something.
In years past, I bided my time by flipping through seed catalogs, drinking hot coffee, and reading Poor Richard’s Almanac. I’m always amazed at how smart old Ben Franklin was back then, and to think, he didn’t have Oprah, Duck Dynasty or the Internet.
I found a cure for the February blues this year by signing up for the Master Gardner Class at the Walker County Extension Center.
Apparently there were a lot of folks on the same tractor as me because the room was packed for the 13-week class.
I’ve always been kind of a hack when it comes to gardening. Some years I would have a bumper crop, and then other years my garden was just sad.
I’ve attended two classes and already I can see what I was doing wrong all those years.
I had a gut feeling those numbers on fertilizer bags actually meant something and not simply there for decoration. But I was from the school that believed “the higher the number, the better the fertilizer.” As it turns out, those numbers are important, and when I learned their significance, a lightbulb went off in my head.
The first week we studied soils and learned why the soil in Alabama is so different from the soil in Kansas.
Farming in Alabama clay can be more challenging than it is in other parts of the country. The structure of soil here is different and having good gardens year after year requires thought, care and a lot of organic material put back into the earth.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll learn about plant botany, insect management, weeds, greenhouses, plant propagation, as well as tending fruit orchards and vegetable gardens.
Many of the things about gardening that’s remained a mystery for me through the years should come into sharper focus during the coming weeks.
I could kick myself for not taking the class years ago, but taking the class while working full-time would have eaten up two weeks of vacation, which was more than I wanted to sacrifice at that time.
But I’m at a perfect place in my life, and the skills I learn will pay dividends for many years.
One immediate benefit is that my Master Gardener’s class has helped to beat the February blues.