We haven't had much of a winter this year.  In fact, nothing has completely died off.  My hanging plants wilt one day and bounce back the next.  I haven't had the heart to throw them out, what with their struggle to survive and all.  Perhaps this is why I am already dreaming of putting in raised garden beds this Spring, which is nipping at my winter boots.  That gleam of sunlight after three dreary days of clouds and rain doesn't help.  I'm easily inspired!  One thing is for sure, never count out the cold in mid-January.  Mother nature has the right mind to teach me a thing or two in case I didn't learn it last year.  I planted my garden in March.  Oh hush, it was unseasonably warm, but I know better now.  A couple of cold snaps and a very blustery cold winter storm scarred those little plants stiff. 
They never really grew much and never produced well, but the strawberries were good little girls.  They gave me more than I could keep up with last year.  Hopefully this spring will bring even more.  We still have a cold month and half to go before even thinking that the winter may just be a mild one this year, but as for cultivating ideas and dreams, it is never too early.  Here's the reason why I am even thinking of building raised garden beds and I can say it in two words; crummy dirt!  My yard is not the easiest to work in when it comes to gardens and plants.  I usually have to do quite a bit to keep them healthy or make them grow at all.  Sometimes I think there is about as much nutrient in this dirt as an empty clay pot.  The drainage on the lot isn't great so the quality of the dirt tends to be less than desirable.  It isn't that I haven't had successful gardens, I have, but sometimes I think I am working a great deal harder than some of my neighbors and our dirt isn't alike. A good friend of mine only two houses down brings his dirt in from his own farming fields.  He has GOOD dirt!  And monster plants with monster vegetables.  I am determined to bring a squash out of my garden this year that will rival Mr. Cobb's produce like nothing he's ever seen.  We maybe not, but I will try and he has offered as much of his dirt as I need so this year I will take him up on the offer.  I planted strawberries in the fall of 2010 and they are doing great, but the bush beans turned into sticks after the insects devoured them last year.  I had sprayed and sprayed and yet still some how or another my beans were snatched right out from under me.  I probably harvested two hand fulls last year, enough to toss into my salad for lunch a couple of days.  I tell you, all that work wasn't worth two salads. :)  Anyway, I am making a plan to be prepared to harvest good this year.  I am also ordering a composting bin so I can take back my precious (ancient) wheelbarrow which at this time collects the yard debris and my kitchen scraps, a la beautiful black dirt, but not enough of it. The new composting bin could make up to 90 gallons of compost every few weeks.  The poor old wheelbarrow has rusted out holes in it but I love it and way and need it for some other ideas simmering on the back burner.  Soon we'll purchase the wood for the boxes and my friend with the fields of Carolina gold (farm dirt) is donating all the dirt we could possibly need.  So before long we will be ready to pick out the plants.  We'll have to plan the raised beds well so not to limit our planting choices.  More to come soon!!