Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I love to grow plants. And with the winter that we are having here it is an unsatiable desire to see green live beings in the house.

My winter gardening started with my traditional paperwhite bulb in my kitchen window right after Thanksgiving. It was so cold in my kitchen window (How cold was it?) that for several weeks there was just the beginnings of a sprout, and green, but no height to the plant. I then moved the plant behind the tinted area of the window, which gives it a bit of warmth and the height definately caught up with itself. I was beholding sweet smelling white flowers in no time at all.

I was gifted before Christmas a Red Amarylis and I started it at the same time. I now have on our table a living Valentine. It has produced 6 blooms so far and looks like it might produce more. My next bulb adventure is to start crocus/tulip bulbs on Candlemas (Groundhog Day) and hopefully they will be blooming by Easter at least. These and the paperwhites I enjoy giving out to the women at Quilting and Ladies Aid and I love to hear the stories of how their bulbs are growing.

On the dreariest of days I started sprouts for salads. Last year I went to our bulk store and asked if they had seeds for sprouting. They looked at me kind of funny and shook their heads. About half way home I realized that I needed to think outside the box. I turned around and went back to the bulk store and bought one container each of every spice that was still a whole seed. So this gave me a good reserve for creative salad sprouts with such a variety as mustard, cumin, fennel.... The options are only limited by the seeds at the store.

Sprouts are wonderful. In just a few days they are growing and exciting. My hard part, ask my DH, is that I become emotionally attached to the little plants and let them keep growing. Then one day he finds the overgrown sprouts in the trash and I am starting over again. This year, I am making a concentrated effort to use them, and so far it is working.

Before I was married I had a cold frame that I used often in the winter and enjoyed lush green salads of leaf lettuce and spinach. After the addition of husband and pups, the coldframe was just not it's old self. It had been stepped on, jumped on and hit with a lawnmower. We moved it once, and the afore mentioned just seemed to happen again. Because of my handicap it is important to me to be able to work in the cold frame from the back patio, which has a roof, so I am not slipping on ice, etc. So I called a friend of mine who has the gardens where we got married. I wanted to know if he thought I could use a "rubbermaid" type clear tote as my cold frame on the back porch. He showed me a reasonable cold frame from Cook's Garden and it was assembled and brought to my concrete back porch. The back porch faces south, so I have good sun and I can manage it now in all weather.

Now to planting the cold frame. I have searched the internet obcessively to do this the "right way". And finally I decided to experiment with my ideas with just a few pots, and if that does not work - revise, revise, revise. My present idea is to fill the pots with potting soil, add seeds of lettuce and spinach and insulate the pots by lying them on newspapers and putting crushed newspapers between the pots.

I want to mention that I did buy two small clear totes for planting. One I have put to the left of my kitchen sink, filled with potting soil and seeded once. The result was that all the seeds came up, but they were very thin and spindley. Back to Google Search and decided that I needed to raise the tote closer to the window and leave the light above the sink on, so the plants were not struggling so much for light. The grocery store supplied me with the makeshift shelving and I have replanted. I will let you know how it turns out.

The second tote, same size, I still want to experiment with outside beside my coldframe. The main reason is that I want to show women in apartments, low income housing units etc, how to garden in small spaces, all year around. Totes can be bought rather inexpensively. So can potting soil, clay/plastic pots and newspapers. There is not only a joy, but empowerment, in growing even some of your own food. So as I plant the coldframe, I also am planting a couple small pots in the tote and work on tweeking this system. Hopefully I will have answers by Spring and can share this information with others.

In between these growing food adventures, this last weekend, my husband and I went to the Conservatory. It was so green and warm on one of the more frigid days of the year. Not only was each and every room a vegetative joy, but we had the added pleasure of the Orchid Show. Orchids of every color imaginable, all over the conservatory. I love orchids, but I also love the Tuxe, the oldest kitty at our house who also loves orchids. In fact she can eat a $25 orched down to the dirt and say - Yum, can I have another Mom? - so we haven't had anymore orchids. But, when we went to the conservatory gift shop I was delighted to see orchids in terrariums. That is our solution. I immediately found a 1/2 price small orchid and started making plans. The next day I took apart the 5 terrariums I had, sifting through and pruning and discarding and now have four terrariums with a variety of plants, one a special orchid terrarium. I hope this works. It is lovely and non-edible.

And last, but not least today, I put some tiny peat pellets, (Have you watched them expand and grow? It is true entertainment.)in three cheerful colored half moon-shaped containers, with matching saucers and planted Lambs Ear (orange 1/2moon), Sensitive Plant (Green 1/2moon) and Polka Dot plant (purple 1/2 moon). These were a gift from my DH during the after-Xmas sales at Waldenbooks, they just looked fun. And I have been wating to grow more ornamental plants. I have sowed and placed the little 1/2 moons in the tote beside the kitchen sink and am anxiously awaiting my first signs of life in them.

So I will keep you up to date on my growing adventures. Are you growing anything this winter? Do you have any suggestions for me? Happy Green Thumbs to us all!