January means garden planning. I used to spend time poring over catalogs, those glossy thick ones that come in the mail from places like Baker Creek and Johnnys, as well as the other ones like Burpee and Gurneys. I used to get together with my Uncle on a Saturday morning, and my aunt would make us tea and there would be cookies and bagels, and my uncle and I would plan our gardens together. Who would get what seeds, what we would split, and he always had tidbits of advice and suggestions for me. Gardening was the thing I learned from him. It was our bond. When he passed away from Covid in November of 2020, I was devastated. I still miss him something fierce, everyday. And since then, I have tried to recreate those moments of ordering seeds with Billy, trying to achieve the same thing, and it just didn’t work. It didn’t feel right and made me sad, despite Billy’s best efforts. So this year, I went with something new. It is time to start a new tradition, one where I am the “expert” and Billy and Wyatt my partners.
Billy has been a big fan of MIGardener’s YouTube channel for years. I only recently started watching the channel, but Luke has tons of great videos, and even better, his information is Michigancentric. I had no idea though that he had a store so close to us, only an hour away! This was it, this was the new thing we could do, the new tradition we could start – shopping directly at his store!
We rolled up after a fairly easy drive (and after Billy exclaimed that the guy walking on the side of the road with his dog was the MIgardener although we don’t really know) and found ourselves in front of a large but fairly unassuming building on a very gray blah day. I also want to note that it is wheelchair accessible, with a ramp off to the side.
Inside though was warm and bright and felt like spring and hope and sunshine, with a giant wall of seeds, a small area of fun little extras, and a wall of just tomato seeds. And plants! Wyatt was very excited which made me smile. We may have gone a bit nuts, and made a mistake that MIgardener talks about in his videos – overbuying. Next year we will be better, I promise. This year though, we had a little bit of fun. We all picked seeds, including Wyatt.
So, want to see what we picked?
Four different kinds of tomatoes. Cucumbers, cucamelons, and those pretty spring peas. And black carrots, a Wyatt choice, and then I added watermelon radish.
Moon and Stars Watermelon (me), Tigger Melons (Wyatt), and then some orange watermelon (Billy). Luffa gourds because another customer in the store talked me into it, and jack-o-lantern pumpkins.
Then Billy’s array of lettuces for salad.
And then Billy and Wyatt left me some surprises at the register, that they chose for me. A few stickers, a lip balm, and a small little strawberry recipe book.
Now that we have all of this, we need to redo our garden plan! It is something that will keep us busy and thinking of spring during these longest and grayest of winter Michigan months, dreaming of toasted tomato cheese sandwiches, evening bowls of watermelon, those early spring radish that give you that bit of excitement of something green and growing.
This year I hope to can again, something I haven’t done at all since my uncle passed. We always did that together too. So I will change it up, maybe can sauce instead of diced tomatoes, etc. Change it up, but keep the spirit of it all. Start these types of traditions with Wyatt.
All in all, it was a good day. One I wish I could have shared with my uncle, but he would be pleased that I am passing on his love for growing food.