November has been unusually mild in East Tennessee, though there were three or four days when we needed our row cover to protect our plants. Hardy greens are doing great and the garlic sprouts have made it through their thick mulch into the winter sunlight. Several participants have kept things going into the off season and we’re making weekly sales of greens, Jerusalem artichokes and herbs to the River Creek CSA.

I was trying to keep peppers going as long as I could, but a dip down to 22F killed them, despite the row cover. I picked any that had even a touch of color, and I am still slicing sweet peppers into my breakfast omelette. There are three left in my refrigerator crisper drawer and it is a joy to eat them this late in the season.

My Brussels sprouts look healthy, but not a sprout in sight. This makes year four without them forming sprout heads. More experienced gardeners than I say that something about our micro-climate in Johnson City keeps the plants from heading properly. I heard they’ll grow fine up in the higher elevations, but not here. I keep trying though, hoping maybe it’s my fault and I’ll figure it out one of these years. We are an inherently optimistic bunch, us gardeners.

As the days get shorter and the sunlight less potent, our gardens settle in for a dormancy that’ll last until the end of January. Just when I think I’ll let it be and spend my time and energy on other endeavors for a few months, the seed catalogs start arriving. Bakers Creek and High Mowing have arrived, filled with colorful photos of perfect fruits, leaves and roots. My head is filled with sunlight and rows of sturdy plants utterly free of blight or wilt.

I’ve got several pages of notes on seeds to buy already. What sold well this past year? Should we plant more purple varieties? The cucumbers were hit bad by wilt, are there varieties that are resistant? That tomato sounds amazing, but holy frijoles they are charging that much for a packet of seed?!

It doesn’t end, but it doesn’t wear us out either. The sun may be gone by 5:30pm these days, but its light still shines through those pictures in the catalog. It’s the time of year for hot cocoa, fuzzy slippers and dreams of next year’s garden.

–Lexy Close, Build It Up East TN