While the days begin to lengthen, January is still a month where there is little to do in the garden save catalog the catalogs that arrive on a nearly daily basis promising seeds, plants and new growth in the months ahead. But there are a few things that I can still do in this increasingly cold month. Potting up.
Amaryllis is sold and pushed as a Christmas bulb, but for me it is one that sustains me after Christmas. Though I buy new bulbs every few years, most of my blooms are from bulbs I keep and let sleep in the basement after the have flowered and summered in my backyard. They have done quite well and increase in size year to year. My challenge has always been to get them to bloom at Christmas; last year I stopped trying and said that I will just pot up a few every other week so that I have big blossoms late January through early April.
I also noticed that the soil for my Christmas cacti had become calcified and also needed refreshment. So I had a big potting job in front of me and I thought that the best helper I could get to mix the soil would be my granddaughter Charlotte.
Charlotte has been helping me to make bread ever since she was 5 months old. She loves to stick her hands into the dough picking out little chunks for a forbidden snack. Her kneading skills would come in handy when I hydrated the soil before potting up.
I have learned the hard way that you always wet your soil first before potting up so that your carefully placed seeds and plants stay where you placed them rather than float up or tilt badly. For Charlotte, this was fine as it offered her the opportunity to get her hands good and muddy.
I gave her a small spoon as a mixing tool but Charlotte, like many of the children I have worked with over the years, preferred to use both her hands to squeeze and squish the soil. When water was added, so much the better as she started grab chunks of soil breaking them up and creating muddy balls that she smiled and giggled over. More than a few times my wife needed to remind Charlotte that soil was for mixing, not for eating.
After we got the mix right I tried to get her to help me put soil in the pots but she was too interested in embedding her arms in the soil to care. Soon she was covered hand to elbow and enjoyed the fact that we let her stick her arm deep into a watering can to remove this new layer of topsoil coating both arms.
Potting up took little time. I’m looking forward to the Spring and Summer when I can show Charlotte the fruits of her labor. Though I think for her it’s all about the mixing.