During the winter solstice, I was sitting (on a beach) at roughly 21.6940 degrees N. Daylength was around 10 hours and 45 minutes. Compared to Durango (37.2753 degrees N), I had about 1 hour 15 minutes more sunlight if I was here. Not that I am gloating, but it was 80 degrees. And I was wearing sandals. But not gloating.
Now that I am back at work (ish), I find myself preparing for the 2023 year. And while it may seem counterintuitive for someone who works a lot with plants, winter and spring are probably the busiest seasons. Teaching = first priority; specialization = second. There are plenty of people in our area who know way more about plants than I do, and there are plenty of people who are way better teachers. But when you combine the two, you get Extension. We like to teach. And for the world of plants, sometimes it is easier, and more effective, to teach during the dormant season. So every winter, we hold classes like: Colorado Master Gardeners, backyard food production, our Southwest Webinar Series, and a smattering of workshops and symposiums on many different topics. If you are interested in finding out what classes we offer, or what classes some of our community partners offer, feel free to check us out on our website (www.laplataextension.org) or our Facebook site (@laplatacountyextension) or just shoot me an email and I would be happy to add you to my mailing list.
The off-chance does exist that when I am thinking about what I want to teach in the upcoming year, I may drift into what I want to do in our garden next year. I am perpetually trying to find ways to remove lawn and add more trees. For the past two years, those two goals have run parallel, taking out about 1,500 square of lawn and adding eight trees (and mind you we already have two gigantic Colorado blue spruce dominating our yard). The tree-planting process will most likely slow down for a couple of years, but I do want to take out more lawn and add more vegetable garden beds. My biggest challenge? The shade cast by the aforementioned blue spruce may hinder how much sunlight the potential beds get. Perhaps 2023 will be one of those experimental years where I just install one bed, and watch. Is there enough sunlight, and if so, when does the bed first get it and when will it get shaded? Those questions will lead me to what I can plant there, what would be a push and what will fail. It will be that gentle reminder that it is OK to go slow in order to eventually go fast.
So while we may not see the days getting longer, they are. While it may feel like a distant dream, the summer solstice is less than six months away when our gardens will (hopefully) be full of color and growth. For every season, there is a converse; for every snowy day there will be a bit more moisture for our plants; for every dark and cold January, there are plants – from trees to garlic (!) – using that dormant period so come spring, pop! As the Romantic poet John Keats once penned: “Shed no tear – O, shed no tear! The flower will bloom another year. Weep no more – O, weep no more! Young buds sleep in the root’s white core.”
I hope this holiday season treated you all well and that your kitchen table is full of garden catalogs in bloom.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.