No one loves Imbolc as much as me. Well, okay, that’s probably not true but this point on the wheel of the year is one of my favorites. As an avid gardener, I may in fact savor it even more than Ostara. By the time spring equinox rolls around, new life is everywhere--birds back from southern points, baby bunnies peeking out of shrubs, early spring flowers blooming. At Imbolc, it’s still at least part dream, and a beautiful dream at that! When we walk into the woods, the kids notice that in some spots the ground is no longer crunchy and frozen under foot.There are little patches of green, likely the hairy bittercress and henbit that will soon make neighboring lawn fanatics crazy. The cold world is gradually warming and stirring, ready to come back to life before long.



There are lots of wonderful ways to celebrate Imbolc with kids. For us, making Brigid’s crosses is a must. While those made from straw may be more authentic, pipe cleaners are easiest to work with. The process is easy and there are plenty of Youtube videos to guide you through. We like to make colorful crosses and always make some exclusively of red as a reminder of what this cross quarter day is about: celebrating fire, fertility, the womb of the earth again welcoming new life.


Seed Starting

Most importantly, at Imbolc we always start our seeds. The process of starting seeds seems to intimidate many new gardeners but really nothing could be simpler. Some knowledge about the seed you are sowing makes germination more likely. Some seeds like to soak in water, especially large seeds such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or morning glories. Soak them in warm water overnight and their tough seed coat will dissolve some before you sow them. Other seeds, such as nasturtium, catmint or butterfly weed, need to be scarified, or scratched up a bit, for optimal germination.This process mimics what would happen to the seed if it was eaten and digested by a bird  A couple quick rubs with coarse grain sandpaper does the trick and then they are ready to be started.


Medium matters too; regular potting soil is too dense for new plants to send out roots. Garden soil is never effective as it is likely rife with weeds seeds. A bag of seed starting mix or seed starting pellets are easy to acquire at any gardening store. Before you plant, read the back of each seed envelope to learn how deeply the seeds like to be sown. Some require total darkness while others like to sit just on top of the soil because they require some light to grow. Mist them with warm water, cover with plastic of some kind (a plastic bag or the plastic top of a mini-greenhouse) and that’s it! Mist them daily, making sure they never dry out, and keep an eye out for new life. Patience is requisite too because not all seeds germinate at the same rate. Don’t give up too soon! The seed you are ready to give up on may just need a few more days. Imbolc is all about patience.


Setting Garden Goals


I like to try out something new each year in the garden, a new plant or a new practice. This year we plan to grow a few new things. For my potato loving husband we are trying out sunchokes, a perennial root vegetable with a water chestnut type flavor. My kids are eager to grow edamame (green soybeans) which is one of their favorite foods. And we are all interested in trying our hand at growing some luffa to make into sponges!


This year, and every year, I am trying to learn more fruitful ways to garden in harmony with the habitat around me. Organic gardening alone is not enough. It is important to work with the ecosystem my little plot of land is part of. To that end, the kids and I scrutinize slumbering shrubby herbs like lemon balm and sage and note the praying mantis egg sacs. We pay close attention to the bird feeder, currently hijacked by the squirrels, anticipating a visit from a feathered friends we haven’t seen in awhile like the American Goldfinch, our state bird. The sound of the Red Headed Woodpecker trying the bark of nearby trees is music to our ears. Out in the woods, we spot forest tent caterpillars, a native insect of our area, part of our forest ecosystem (no matter how much their furriness unsettles my daughter!)


Savoring Anticipation


Imbolc is a time for getting ready, a halfway point because cold gray winter and warm glorious spring. My son and I like to flip through the seed catalogs as they arrive, one after another, in the mail. My kids weigh monumental decisions like which summer camp will they pick--Nature Camp at a nearby nature reserve or Farm Camp at a small, family farm in deep South Jersey. There is so much fun in nature ahead of us. At Imbolc, it is almost in reach, the plans ready to bear fruit.