Usually the feast of St. John brings the coldest day of the year, but this time arctic weather was delayed for two weeks. I cozy up indoors with a hot cup of herbal tea and dreamy gardening books as the thermometer indicates 8 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

No matter how enthusiastic one is about gardening there are limits to the possible and approaching 0F definitely rules out any outdoor activity. Everything is frozen solid, the dirt is harder than rock, I pity the birds and squirrels.

Towards the evening it started snowing which is a good sign, it means the temperature is rising and the season will ease up a bit on the roses and the young apple tree.

The consummate gardener will find something to put on the schedule for January, something like garden planning, tool maintenance, or alphabetizing the seed packets, but even after you're done with all of that it's still 8 degrees outside.

I'll keep working on my herb and vegetable garden plans to figure out ways to make it thrive even more, because I can tell you there is no greater reward than being able to open a jar of garden grown tomatoes in the middle of January and enjoy the bounty of your summer harvest. I may not be as skilled at vegetable production and canning as my grandfather, but I'm getting there, I'm getting there :)

On a more practical note, now would be the best time to browse your seed and plant catalogs for two reasons: first there is nothing better to do, really, with the freezing cold draping a dreary landscape and second you need some time for decision making and delivery before mid February, when it is the proper time to start seeds indoors.

Don't hurry with the tomatoes though, six weeks will get them garden ready, eight weeks will make them leggy and anemic. I don't mean to demoralize you during the coldest week of the year (so far), but remember that in the Midwest the day of the last frost is April 20th and all tender plantings will have to wait until then. Yes, that is four months from now.

Author's Bio: 

Main Areas: Garden Writing; Sustainable Gardening; Homegrown Harvest
Published Books: “Terra Two”; “Generations”; "Letters to Lelia", "Door No. 8", "Fair"; "A Year and A Day"; "The Plant - A Steampunk Story"
Career Focus: Author; Consummate Gardener;
Affiliation: All Year Garden; The Weekly Gardener; Francis Rosenfeld's Blog

I started blogging in 2010, to share the joy of growing all things green and the beauty of the garden through the seasons. Two garden blogs were born this way: allyeargarden.com and theweeklygardener.com, a periodical that followed it one year later. I wanted to assemble an informal compendium of the things I learned from my grandfather, wonderful books, educational websites, and my own experience, in the hope that other people might find it useful in their own gardening practice.