COLUMNISTS

Winter gardening brings color and joy amidst winter doldrums

Susan Manzke
Susan enjoys the blooms of her amaryllis that she received as a gift for Christmas.

It’s about time for the annual seed catalogs to start arriving in the mail. I always love looking through their colorful pages. I dream that my vegetable plants would be as fruitful and my flowers as vibrant as displayed on their pages. My mental images in January of what I’ll have in the summer are always perfect. The fact is that I produce the best-looking weeds around.

My winter garden is growing much better. Everything is in a controlled environment where weeds don’t cause havoc.

Two weeks ago, I brought out the hydroponic garden that my son Russell gave me. It comes out of storage every winter. I think I start it up to prove that the world will eventually turn green again. The grays of winter gets to be too much for me and I need to be reminded that spring is only two months away.

In my little water garden, I started with lettuce. Two plugs went in one day and then, a few days later, I added one of basil and one of thyme.

From the first day, I would check on my garden and look for sprouts. In about four days, tiny signs of growth appeared. Now, a week later, the first lettuce shoots are up above the paper collar. It won’t be long before I’ll be snipping leaves off to add to my salad.

The tender leaves of lettuce are alive and well growing in Susan’s Hydroponic garden, Waiting to be added to her winter garden is a new plug.

Last year, I couldn’t keep up with my indoor lettuce. I had planted too many plugs and they all grew. By March, I didn’t have a garden, I had a jungle.

In the past, I tried other vegetables. The hydroponic tomatoes grew like crazy and even flowered. To get fruit, I tried acting like a bee to move pollen on the flowers. I’m sorry to say that my efforts were unsuccessful. No tiny tomatoes appeared, unlike my summer garden.

I am not a good gardener. I never was. I had to move the few plants I grow to pots as the potato blight attacked my tomatoes and potato plants. In late May, I’ll purchase a few tomato plants to grow outside my back door. It would be simpler to go to a farmer’s market and pick up tomatoes there, but the activity of picking my own always makes me feel good and they are so yummy, too.

Back to my winter garden. There are many houseplants living here, too—at least, I hope they are living.

Two plants in question reside in my upstairs bathroom. One is a fern and the other is a spider plant. Both attract the attention of my cats, who chew on them—and then the cats walk away where they hack up the greenery they had taken. That’s what cats do.

Right now, I’m planting some ‘cat grass’ seeds. I hope that grass will become more appealing to the cats’ taste buds than my once-thriving plants. At least, it’s worth a try until the world warms up again and the spider plant and fern can spend the summer outside.

To bring color besides green inside, I purchased amaryllis bulbs from the Muehl Public Library flower sale last fall. One special bulb was also given to me as a Christmas gift. I’m happy to say that my amaryllises are now blooming. Joy! There is color growing in my house again!

A pair of amaryllis plants provide blooms of color during the gray days of winter.

These bulbs will eventually find their way outside for the summer where they will recharge for next winter’s blooms—bulbs from other years are also growing inside, but they need more time to send up their flower shoots—something to look forward to.

Growing plants inside is a great way to survive winter, especially when you are yearning for green like I am. I highly recommend living with live plants to keep your spirit alive in the winter.

Good luck.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; susanmanzke@gmail.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.