Winter Gardening
Color in Garden - Plate 11b

With fewer outside distractions for both parent and child winter is a most auspicious time to introduce the garden­ing idea. From the wide assortment of possible indoor gar­dening diversions it should be child's play, literally, to make at least a temporary garden convert out of any youngster.

To open the winter season early, let your young prospect rescue small plants from the garden before they are frost-struck, to serve as blooming house plants for a month or so. Compact annuals such as dwarf marigolds, ageratum, sweet alyssum, pansies and petunias will give a creditable performance in the house. They should be dug up a few weeks before frost is expected, carefully potted and watered. Sink the pots in the earth in a shady place, where they can adjust themselves while still outside to life in a flowerpot. When frost is imminent bring them into a sunny window for a gay opening of the winter season.

Don't overlook young self-sown seedlings of these annuals that may have started during the late summer. With their mission unfulfilled they still want urgently to bloom, and many of them will go through with it if potted and brought into the house.

Prepare in October or early November for an indoor bulb display. Best choices for the small gardener are the very early blooming miniature-flowered bulbs mentioned in Chapter 2. Plant them, half a dozen to a pot, in a good soil mixture with drainage material in the bottom. Low bulb pots are most suit­able. Water soil thoroughly and bury pots during rooting period under four or five inches of soil. This may be done either in a cold frame or in boxes of earth in a garage.

In six to eight weeks, or when roots have filled the pots (the only way to tell is to look), bring them into a cool room in the house. Direct sunlight is not needed during this period. When top growth is well started put them on a windowsill where they will get good light and some sunshine.

The things that can go on in a cellar smack of magic. Easiest, most spectacular and most worthwhile is the growing of mushrooms in the specially prepared "mushroom trays" devised for the ordinary householder by a mushroom specialist. If directions are carefully followed these are just about fool­proof.

First, with the help of a thermometer, you must locate a place in the basement where the temperature stays between 50° and 60° F. After that the custodian of the project has nothing to do but keep the soil moist with an occasional sprinkling.