By Ellen Gefen
You work diligently on your garden during the spring and summer months. You prep, plant, prune, water, and feed your plants with constant care. You ensure that each one gets the right amount of light and TLC that it requires and deserves. But when the winter months are upon us, what do you do with your outdoor plants? Do you leave them outside and hope that they make it through to see another spring? Gardening in the winter months can seem like a daunting challenge…but it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re clueless when it comes to plant care during the winter, you’re not alone. Ensuring that your plants survive the winter not only saves you the cost of replacing them come spring, but also it often gives you a healthier, more mature-looking garden. These tips can help you with winter plant care, no matter where you live.
Look For A Location
If you thought that your tropical plants will only bloom outdoors during the spring and summer, think again. By putting them in a window that is sunny and stays between 60-70 degrees, you can keep your plants producing beautiful blooms nearly year-round. Outdoor plants such as geraniums, jasmine, citrus, and hibiscus, for example, will thrive in this environment. Just make sure that nighttime temperatures don’t drop below 40 degrees.
Time It Right
Smaller outdoor plants can find a new home (inside your home, that is) under the right conditions. If you have a hydrangea that you love and want to see last until spring, you might consider purchasing a grow light to keep it under. So that it has at least 12 hours of light each day, set a time to keep your plant well-lit–and happy.
Build A Shelter
Short on space in your home? You can always create a cool new space for your plants that will keep them warm and toasty during the winter. A cold frame, is essentially a smaller-sized greenhouse that is designed to help your plants survive the winter. Find a spot that gets a ton of sun (such as a south-facing wall), and see if you can butt it up against your home, which will offer your plants additional heat. Include a drainage option, and slope the ground slightly so that water doesn’t pool underneath it.
You may have a gorgeous summer garden, but chances are you won’t be able to save all of your plants. You’ll need to look through them to see which ones are thriving–and which ones aren’t. Be careful when digging them out of the ground to save as much of the root ball as possible, and plant them in a big pot with gardening soil. Prune away any yellow leaves to encourage future growth. Be prepared to water your plant frequently since the heat in your home might tend to dry out your plants quicker.
Give Them A Rest
Despite your best gardening efforts, you might find that some of your plants simply won’t bloom or produce fruit during the winter–and that’s okay. In fact, some plants (particularly tropical ones) need to take a vacay during the winter months. If your plant plans to take a long winter’s nap, you can store it in a cool, dark place right in its pot. Another alternative is to dig up the bulbs, wrap them in peat moss or moistened newspaper and store them in a cool, dark place (between 40-50 degrees), and plant again in the spring.
If you have ornamental plants or container gardens that just won’t survive winter outdoors, but you’re not able to bring them in for the season, consider giving them a second life by donating them to a friend, church, school, or nursing home (check first to be sure the organization wants them!). Many Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores will take plants along with other landscaping supplies.
Keeping your garden growing during the winter isn’t an impossibility. In fact, you might decide to keep formerly outdoor plants indoors once you see how easy it is for them to live indoors. And while it might require some work, your garden will look beautiful again in just a few short months.