It’s hard to believe it is October! The long, hot days of summer seem like a distant memory now; but there is something nice and satisfying about cleaning up the yard, putting away the planters and garden tools, and easing into the slower days of fall.
From chatting with other gardeners, I know that many of you bring in some of your plants for the winter. It seems that many of our plants have just reached their stride, but the season is over and the weather is changing. It’s a shame to just toss them away or let them freeze, isn’t it! But there is more to the whole process than just bringing the plants into the porch; we have to get them ready for their new home!
By now, our plants are beginning to get used to less light. We can assist them by moving them out of direct sun for a few days before we bring them in. Unless we are lucky enough to have a solarium or sunroom, the plants we bring in will be on a windowsill or sitting downstairs, so they have to re-adjust to lower light conditions.
While the plants are still outdoors, it is a good chance to give them a good inspection and a clean-up. We should remove any dead leaves or stems, and trim them down if necessary. Check carefully for any signs of insects: in the great outdoors we might not mind them too much, but we don’t want to bring them inside! Rinsing them gently with clean water might be all we need to do, but more serious infestations should be dealt with by using insecticidal soap. Be sure to follow the directions listed on the container. (And look at the plant with practical eyes: if it is very much invaded by insects, it might not be strong enough to face the vigors of transplanting and moving. We also don’t want to risk infecting our other plants, either. So we have to consider those factors as well.)
If we are moving in a plant that was previously in a large pot, we may want to transplant the plant into a container of a more manageable size. This is a good time to divide and trim very large plants.
Okay, so now the tricky part: managing our plants once we have them in the house. The plants will not be growing in the house the same way they were when they were out in our yards. Not that we would even want them to do so! Can you imagine if they kept up that rate of growth indoors? We’d have to machete our way from room to room by Christmas! No, it is a good thing that our plants will grow more slowly or even go semi-dormant when they move in with us. We should stop fertilizing them, and we have to water them less. Remember, they are not out in the hot sun with summer breezes drying out the soil like they were just a few short weeks ago. It is very easy to overwater our plants indoors, so we must always check to be sure the soil is dry before we water. Gardeners who are very skilled at moving plants indoors for the winter have told me that with some plants, we can almost stop watering them until we see new signs of growth, which could be February or March. Until then, their fluid intake can be greatly reduced.
Good luck with your plants! If you have any questions about their care, bring them with you to the next meeting of the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society on Thursday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. in the Sunshine Room at SIGN on North Street. This is our “member involvement” night, where everyone shares gardening tips and advice! Members, please bring in your garden photos for the photo album. Remember, everyone is welcome — you don’t have to be a member to come to the meeting! Have a great week!