The winter solstice happens in our northern hemisphere at the exact moment when the Sun’s position in the sky is at its most southern point of the year. This year it is tomorrow morning at 4:02 am PST. This is when the sun will be at its greatest distance from the equator to our south, providing us with the year’s longest nights and shortest days. Many religions, cultures and traditions provide for winter solstice rituals and we gardeners are no different….
For us the winter solstice means it is time to begin the important seed catalog ritual. Now I know most seed catalogs don’t actually arrive until January or February, but the solstice seed catalog ritual is never-the-less very important to gardeners. What happens is that the solstice awakens us to the hopeful reality that the days will soon start to become noticeably longer, and eventually warmer. It does not matter that realistically we still have months to plan for next year’s gardens or that we will not see the 2009 seed catalogs for a month or more. The ritual is still unavoidable.
The first part of the ritual involves wondering why the seed companies don’t send out their catalogs sooner than they do. This sometimes involves looking on-line in a futile attempt to see if next year’s seeds are already available on company websites. Even though some of my favorite seed companies do now send out a catalog in late December, there is little or no on-line information describing 2009’s seed selection at this time. Even if there was, the reality is that the only successful seed buying experience, (one that guarantees a high germination rate and beautiful, pest and disease free flowers and vegetables), requires a paper catalog, a favorite beverage, and a large, comfortable easy chair.
As happens every year, I will just have to be patient as the ritual plays itself out! Eventually the catalogs will arrive, the days will get longer and warmer, and next summer all the gardeners of the northern hemisphere who faithfully follow this ritual will once again have a garden full of perfect vegetables and flowers.