Try Winter Gardening – A Sensory and Reminiscing Experience

Winter is fading away and, though it has been mild here, thoughts are turning to gardening. Many of those in our care relaxed by caring for flower beds and ‘truck patches.’ Seed catalogues brightened the early nights with promises of luscious flowers and vegetables. It feels as though it’s too early for planting, but is it?

Try winter sowing

I recently attended a seminar hosted by our local gardening club. Along with sharing wildflower seeds, they taught us how to start plants for spring planting in the dead of winter. Not by buying seed trays and indoor lighting systems, but by planting the seeds in clear water jugs and setting them outside! Mini-greenhouses! Attendees were assured that the seeds would sprout and the result would be plants – already hardened off – and ready for planting in the ground.

Residents in the memory care community where I serve have already tried it. We spent an hour one day busily scooping dirt into the prepared jugs, pressing local wildflower seeds into the soil, spraying with water, then sealing them up. Each person had a different style of helping – some wore gloves, others marveled at the feel of the dirt and occasional stick, some carefully separated the natural materials from the soil, while others simply dumped the soil in the jug and celebrated at their speed.

They presented a united front when I told them we were putting the jugs outside. ‘Are you crazy?’ one person asked, ‘It’s freezing out there!’ Yet, we did so, and are awaiting the result.

An Uplifting, Hopeful Experience

So, what makes this a meaningful pastime? For gardeners, planting in February, or March, extends the season. It gives them a chance to care for something (their future plants), to do something (sow seeds), and gives them something to hope for (the promise of blooms and butterflies in the summer). It fulfills those human needs for quality of life.

Additionally, planting enhances reminiscing. The feeling, sight, and smell of the soil bring back memories of potting flowers and starting seedlings. It reminds us of happier, simpler times when these activities involved sharing time with a beloved grandparent. Planting could bring back other memories as well. Those of supporting the family by planning and preparing for the future harvest and the canning that may follow. The promise of seeing the seedlings peep from the ground, tender and spindly, yet growing to sport juicy tomatoes or vibrant, cheerful flowers.

Gardening is the gift that keeps on giving. We will enjoy watching those tiny plants grow into adults. Tending the plants, watering, and harvesting will bring additional sensory experiences and memories. Watching the birds, bees, and butterflies enjoying the plant life provides calming visual experiences. The scent of the flowers and the taste of the first harvest fill us with positive emotions. Pride in caring for ourselves and others. The cut flowers will deck the dining room tables as tomato sandwiches grace the plates.

I urge you to try winter sowing, even if you have a brown thumb! Take a look at this YouTube video prepared by a local gardener, Patricia Schildkamp. She explains the ins and outs of winter sowing. In the video, she plants a variety of wild flowers in clear water jugs and shows the best methods for doing so. You will see how easy it is to engage your loved one in filling the jugs with soil, watering the soil, then planting the seeds. And both of you will make new memories and share some quality time together.

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