As the risk of frost nears, it's time to bring in some of the non-hardy plants so that they can overwinter indoors. But before you start digging up your plants and plunking them in pots in front of your window, follow a few easy steps to ensure that your plants make it through the winter.
Choose vigorously growing, healthy plants to bring inside. No need to try to save the ones that look sickly. Dig them up carefully so that you get as much of the root mass as possible. Place the plant in a good size pot - 1 gallon if you can - with regular potting soil.
Do a moderate pruning as you bring your plants indoors. The older leaves of most garden plants begin to yellow as they're moved inside and pruning back will help encourage new growth that is better adapted to the lower light conditions indoors. Plants like basil also benefit from pinching back to encourage bushy growth.
If your fall days are still sunny, you may need to water quite often to prevent your plants from drying out. As we move into the winter, your plants will require only moderate watering - no more than once a week. Over watering is the #1 killer of houseplants so test the soil before you water.
Plants can also hide unwanted stowaways as they're brought in. While they are outside, pests are controlled by a number of biological controls but as soon as you bring them indoors, YOU become the only pest control method. If aphids & mealy bugs aren't kept under control, they will soon overwhelm a plant.
Check all of the leaves and if it looks like you have some insect activity, spray the plant with soapy water or insecticidal soap and make sure to spray both the top and underside of each leaf. Keep the plant out on the porch until you're quite sure you have killed most of the pests.
Most houses have quite dry, warm air which can also encourage spider mites. These mites spin fine webs around plant leaves and will suck on the leaves, causing them to yellow & die. Wash the leaves well under a strong stream of water to dislodge them and keep the plant well misted to increase the humidity. Insecticidal soap will also help keep these mites under control.
Finally, if any of your plants were in pots outdoors, make sure to lift them out of the pot and check for slugs. Slugs will often enter plant pots through the drainage holes and lay their eggs at the bottom of the pot. The young slugs will then nest quite happily in your pot, feeding on the roots as they need nourishment. Flick them out before you place your plant back into the pot.
Plants to bring indoors include:
Arzeena Hamir is an agronomist and President of Terra Viva Organics.
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