Little Garden of Hope


January is not one of my favorite months. It doesn’t include any good holidays and it’s long. And cold. And icy. February is short, it sports a cute holiday (Valentine’s Day), and it’s the month next to March (which boasts the onset of Spring–very exciting!). December has Christmas. January? January’s the one month of Winter that’s got nothin’. Nothin’ but cold. And ice. And it’s long. Did I mention the long part?

To ward off January depression (it’s SO FAR AWAY FROM SPRING), one of my New Year’s traditions has become to plant a little indoor garden using herb kits and also an amaryllis or paper whites. Knowing my penchant for this January activity, usually someone gifts me the materials at Christmastime.

Usually, I end up killing the herbs, by either drying them out or rotting them out, but I’m pretty successful with the amaryllis or paper whites.
In spite of the fact that the herbs are most likely doomed, I enjoy the sense of hope it gives me to plant them. It’s simple and quick and it makes me feel like I’m gardening. (Maybe someday I’ll have an actual greenhouse and do real gardening in January!) The herb kits come with cute little pots and seeds and peat cakes to reconstitute.
It would, of course, be more frugal to use little pots I already own and plant my own seeds. But there’s something corny and cheesy about these little herb kits that I love. I’m just playing here. Dreaming. These corny, cheesy little herb kits fit right in. (They’re pretty inexpensive.)

The directions are simple. Just drop a peat cake in each tiny pot.
And add a couple teaspoons of water.
The amaryllis is more complicated. Really. Hey, you have to be sure you stick the root side down. Some years, I’ve done that wrong….. It comes with a big peat cake to which you add 3 cups of water.
It overflowed the pot because I forgot that I should have reconstituted it in a separate bowl. I had to take some of the peat out so I could fit the amaryllis root in there.
There was too much of the peat with the amaryllis anyway, but since some of the peat cakes hadn’t worked right in the herb pots, I used the extra as replacement.

In about six weeks, I’ll have a beautiful red amaryllis bloom.
I made little signs for each row of herb pots. One kit was “Italian” herbs–basil, oregano, and parsley. The other was “fragrant” herbs–mint, catnip, and more basil. The packages say GUARANTEED TO GROW. We’ll see.
It doesn’t really matter.
I feel the spirit of my sweet Spring come upon me when I look at them, and for these long, cold, icy weeks of January ahead, that’s exactly what I need.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on January 2, 2010  

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46 Responses | RSS feed for comments on this post

  1. 1-2

    I too have a hard time with January. And the cold. I really hate to be cold!
    I got one of those little green houses that look sort of like a closet rack w/ a zip-up plastic cover. I may just see what I can kill, er I mean grow in it!
    Happy New Year!

  2. 1-2

    A lovely way to drive the cold winter away! As my name suggests I’m in South Dakota and it’s a COLD one tonight. -27F. My plan for keeping busy this month involves letters. Maybe greeting cards. Lots of them to catch up with people now that things have calmed down from the holiday rush (as I got so overwhelmed DURING it that I turned into a total hermit who wouldn’t even respond to texts).

    New year greetings to you and the hope that we all stay warm!

  3. 1-2

    What a good idea, Nic! People will so appreciate that now!

    And I’m going to go find me something green to plant here soon too – I love that idea. I’ve been getting my seed catalogs in the mail and dreaming already…sooon! I doubled my garden size last year and did great – might try and do that again this year! :sun: :happyflower:

  4. 1-2

    Wow Nic! That is COLD!!

    I love gardening in the winter! Do you keep the amarylis bulbs from year to year? You must have lots of them. They are so beautiful! Do you plant the paperwhites in the garden when they are finished? They probably won’t bloom the following year, but they should the year after.

    I plant seeds early for the garden in Jan/Feb. It helps get me through the winter. They sometimes get a little leggy by spring but I try to only plant the things that can go into the garden as soon as the ground thaws or the ones that take months to germinate. The tender things I leave until April.

    I have been planting a few things last week and yesterday. I planted about three dozen canna lily seeds last week. I had to use the drill on high speed with a metal rasp to pierce that seed coat, but they are all planted now. Yesterday I planted chichiquelites, new and interesting. I also planted daturas.

  5. 1-2

    Yesterday I was just looking back to when I started my seeds last year!! I guess it’s not time yet :( Because I was thinking the same thing! I brought some of my herbs in in the fall, so my herb garden is going good……..

    I was thinking of working on some of my Christmas presents for next year this month, then maybe November and December won’t be quite so busy and I can enjoy it more!

  6. 1-2

    To everyone who has the January blues. Winter sow. you can start your next years garden and flowers now with winter sowing. I did this last year with much success!! Go to this site and it is very easy all you need is milk cartons or whatever, soil seeds and put outside til spring. please check this out. you can start your next years garden now!!!! Have fun.

  7. 1-2

    I’m lucky, my birthday is in January so the holiday celebrations just continue through the month. In fact, this year two other folks I know also hit milestone birthdays this month, so the first three Saturday nights are all big parties! Woohoo!

    My great delight this year is that I brought in a begonia I’d had by my front door and it’s still covered in coral-pink blossoms! I hope it lives through the winter so I can refresh it outside in the summer.

    I think it’s really important to have some blooming things in the house over the winter to chase off the gloom.

    And now the seed catalogs are arriving and the dreaming can begin!!!

  8. 1-2

    :snowman: :woof: :snowman:
    Just remember “Hope springs eternal” I just bet this is the year you will have lovely fragrant herbs in your kitchen to enjoy all winter long—saw that on a commercial!
    It is nice just to have that feeling of growing something. The paper whites are so beautiful. Keep us posted as to how things are growing.


  9. 1-2

    It. Has. My. Birthday.
    What else do you need? LOL. :lol:
    Maybe I’ll do this with teacups and potting soil this weekend. I know I have seed packets around here….

  10. 1-2

    January has my birthday too. I think that is why I have always hated being cold.

  11. 1-2

    what a neat idea :) I always kill seedlings but some bulbs would be fun to do.I have hard time dealing with jan and feb both. I dont do well with the cold and miss the sun and warmth . I think this jan i will stock up on making soap . The bright colors cheer me up

  12. 1-2

    Apart from the heat, January is AWESOME. First it has my birthday, and my dad’s birthday which is the same day, and then we have Australia Day for those of us who reside in the Land of Oz.

  13. 1-2

    My sentiments exactly, and that’s a great idea to ward off the January blues.I think I’ll dig out my old kit and start some herbs too. I have plants all over the house but I’ll make a little space for a few more :)
    I also have a new Amaryllis and some Paperwhites to plant, as well as 4 Amaryllis from previous years. Flowers and plants sure do help me get through the cold months of winter while I dream of spring. :sun:
    We have more snow falling this morning and 24º, but the forecast is for lows in the single digits for the next few days. Brrrr!

  14. 1-2

    It’s harder to kill them if you transplant them into bigger pots when they get a bit bigger… notice I said harder? It can still be done and yes I speak from experience! :help: Think happy warm thoughts… and tell Kitten and Little to only dream dreams of warm spring days chasing bugs outside.

  15. 1-2

    I totally agree with you, Suzanne, about the month of January. Your “hope” comes in planting things…mine comes in making lists! I go through each room in our home and make a list of jobs that need done. Once the list is complete, I devise a plan to accomplish the job. THEN I get to work! Just so I don’t get bored doing WORK, I also schedule some “fun” time into my week. That’s when I work on scrapbooking projects I’ve put off all year, or stamping cards…you get the idea. I’ve found that I don’t dread January like I used to…it actually has a purpose now!

  16. 1-2

    What a great idea! It’s 16 degrees this morning in middle Tennessee and it’s spitting a few flurries. Beautiful, but who wants to go outside. Miserably cold!

    I love the idea of an indoor herb garden!


  17. 1-2

    Very nice. You inspire me :)

  18. 1-2

    It is a little warmer in Fl but not much. We are expecting high 20’s at night, though it does get into the 50’s during the day. . Hard freeze for us, but just watching you plant you seeds it is a sign of Spring to come. I need to do the same with some of the seeds from my garden. Thanks for the reminder.

  19. 1-2

    I had to laugh about you either drying the herbs out or rotting them out…I have several in my kitchen window right now. Some have hung on: the chives and basil, the rest: I don’t remember what they were, succumbed to my lack of gardening expertise. Poor things!
    I love amaryllis, they make me look like a real gardener, and they are so fast growing!

  20. 1-2

    Suzanne, Happy New Year! It looks like you’re on your way to a bright year. Keep the fires burning, stay warm and enjoy your little winter garden!

  21. 1-2

    Hope some local store has the kit for me to purchase
    Wonderful way to brighten the doldrums of January !
    Hope they grow well for you, Suzanne!


  22. 1-2

    Happy New Year everyone! Suzanne, I’m going to copy your idea too and grow some herbs in my kitchen while waiting for spring. I’ll have to get the other plants started in Feb. Last year winter started before Thanksgiving and we had snow into April. Our gardening days are short. Hope the your herb gardens grow abundantly!

  23. 1-2

    There is definitely something contagious about getting dirt under our fingernails for those of us who live in the country. With our nation’s current economic malaise more individuals may see the value and fulfillment of the simplicity of planting a seed, helping it grow,and harvesting a crop. Even simple herbs bring great pleasure to those of us that would rather cook than eat out. The freshness of the herbs is important but I suspect the real pleasure comes from the fact that we grew the crop and put it to use ourselves. What a great day here on the Mountain to look at my seed catalogs and plan for planting peppers and tomatoes in late February to transplant in May. If 2010 goes as fast as 2009 did it will seem like a blink of the eyes.

  24. 1-2

    Hi Suzanne!!! Okay….I’m going TODAY to get some herb kits for my very own! Living in a second floor apartment in Dallas, I am limited for gardening to one pot of lovely shamrocks. That’s it. I can do the herb kits, hopefully not killing them, and then enjoy the ‘fruits’ of my labors when the herbs are lush and lovely. Or at least not feel so bad if I kill them because I would not be the only herb killer in the USA.
    Thanks for the idea. I’m off now to put up Christmas and then off to Calloways Nursery or Walmart or some place that sells herb kits!
    Have a great day.

  25. 1-2

    Makes me want to go to Walmart and buy a kit. It has been snowing here for a few hours. Pretty soon I will have to shovel my way out of the driveway. UGH!

  26. 1-2

    I totally agree about January. Here in Missouri the current conditions are temperature of -4 and windchill of -14. YUCK!!

    I love the little indoor herb garden, where did you find it?? Maybe that would help some of my winter blues/cabin fever.

  27. 1-2

    I don’t know where these kits came from as they were gifts, but I have found similar kits at Wal-Mart in the past and also at garden centers.

  28. 1-2

    Have I got just the thing for you. Winter sown plants.

    It really does work – I’ve tried it with everything from lettuce to hollyhocks to poppies – and had huge successes. You don’t have to water – you don’t have to weed – you don’t have to worry about the temperature because nature will grow those seeds when it is the right time in the spring, with no help at all from us – well, except for filling the plastic containers and putting in the seeds.

    To mark the contents of each container I used sticky label paper – cut it in strips – foled it around the handles (if I used mild jugs) and wrote on it with a sharpie. Other things I labeled on the bottom – but had to be careful not to tip them when looking for the name. Of course lots of things I could recognize from their first leaves.

    One year I didn’t get everything planted out and the poppies grew right up through the hole in the top of the milk jug. It is fun to use this method – and lets you plant lots of stuff in the winter – anytime in the winter – and have extra early plants. Just make sure the critters don’t bother the containers if they tend to be nosy. Enjoy Oh – and they will also send you free seeds – can’t beat that!!!!

  29. 1-2

    I don’t plant herbs but tis the season for starting celery!
    An alternative to a greenhouse would be a cold box, just an old window over a hole or insulated box. You can grow some veggies all winter long! To bad you have to harvest in the cold :?

    Good luck with your January garden!

  30. 1-2

    I just now put up my Clover calender! :clover: It looks great! Do the cats ever mess with the catmint? :help:

  31. 1-2

    How do you do it with your cats around? Or maybe because you let them outside they don’t bother you inside???

  32. 1-2

    Garden of Hope … love the title, and such a perfect start to a new year after a discouraging 2009! We have relatively temperate winters here so I’ll have to start a little herb garden outside on my new Christmas potting bench (thank you, DH), largely because my two cats would have a field day with anything green, young and available (which sounds faintly naughty, lol).

    I like the wintersown link (thank you!) … I don’t have many plastics saved (space issues) but know that the local dollar store sells aluminum pans with clear covers for baking and taking. They should make successful mini greenhouses … what a happy excuse to start something green in murky January.

  33. 1-2

    Just got my first herb catalog of the season, planning on ordering some and dragging in my long planters. The local dollar store for some reason had potting soil for sale the other day. Can’t usually find that this time of year around here. I want to plant at least some parsley, some chives (for some reason that was the one pot that I left outside and that is the one thing that I use indoors alot all winter, chives make a good substitute for green onion tops in quesadias) and I want to experiment with some stevia. Now, if I only had some way of keeping the kitties out of it all.

    A Happy New Year to you, your family and all your readers, Suzanne.

  34. 1-2

    A little bit of heaven: wood fire burning in the stove; flowers blooming at the window; cat curled up cozily; and the aroma of bread baking!

  35. 1-2

    Whata lovely idea to start amarylis bulbs for indoor color! We won’t be able to start our seeds until February as we can still get snow in April and sometimes in May but I have my little seed starters ready and seeds saved from last year’s garden. Since I can’t start my garden I made laundry detergent. Finally found washing soda at Ace hardware!!! No one else in Colorado Springs carries it. Thank you so much for all your wonderful hints. Have a very blessed and happy new year.

    Euni 8)

  36. 1-2

    Great idea. I should try to get a hold of something like that here in Berlin. January just goes on… and on… and on…. and on………

  37. 1-2

    One suggestion, when your herbs start to come up place a bottle top under the pots so that any excess water can drain out of the pot.

  38. 1-2

    I always have to start something inside to keep from getting down and out. Although looking around me right now at all these inside plants I have I wonder how I could get down. Hmmmmmm….my paperwhites are getting tall. And I have amarylis’s everywhere. No bloom yet but mine are years old and they seem to have a mind of their own!! :sun:

  39. 1-2

    I am always ready for Spring after the Christmas and New Year holidays..LOL..when actually winter is just beginning…
    January does seem like the longest month of the year…but with those seed catalogs already coming and the craft projects, crocheting, scrapbooks and early seed planting the time will go fast..
    You have such a nice greenhouse window…I would think you could grow many wonderful plants there…Morning sun would be best..does it get morning, evening or all day sun?….I always wanted a greenhouse window, so I could snip herbs in the kitchen as needed when I cook…Blessed you…The only herbs that overwinter here is our large Rosemary bush..some oregano, and far our parsley is staying green….but a few more nights of these 20 and below temps it will be gone too…

  40. 1-2

    Love this post. I like getting the seed catalogs in January because they are like wish books – browsers what I want to plant and where.

    Keep us updated on the progress of your inside herb garden. I hope this year it does well for you

  41. 1-2

    January doesn’t bother me so much but it sends my husband nuts. He gets cabin fever in the worst way. The cold is not to his liking. This year we’re going on vacation in January to help break up the winter. We’re going south.

  42. 1-3

    My garden window actually doesn’t get ANY sun. The window juts out into the covered back porch.

  43. 1-3

    Those little pots are very cute. Couldn’t you save them from one year to the next and start the seeds in soil. (Peat bogs are endangered.) No money spent by anyone except for seeds.

  44. 1-3

    I don’t even like to see the word January. In Ohio it’s cold, sun seldom shines and I suffer from seasonal depression. I try to keep really busy, doing lots of things I don’t want to stay inside doing once warm weather and sunshine arrives. Painting, cleaning closets, organizing my stuff…etc.

  45. 1-10

    Carnival starts on January 6th (Epiphany). The beginning of Mardi Gras season!

    I bake up a King Cake (or two or three) during this season and decorate the house with purple, green and gold lights and decorations.

    We make more Cajun and Creole foods as well. It’s very festive!


  46. 1-24

    Now I will go online to find herb kits to order. January isn’t over yet!

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