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Master Gardeners- Preparing plants for cooler temperatures

By Sheri Bethard

Orange County Master Gardeners Association

As fall is bringing cooler temperatures, we need to start planning what to do with our outside ornamental plants on our patios, decks and around our yards in pots. Preparing ahead of the first real cold blast will save some headaches in the long run. These are tips to do now preparing prior to bringing plants indoors to your house, garage, back porch or greenhouse.

First and foremost, check your plants for pests. You don’t want to bring those nasty little buggers inside your home or where you are on over-wintering your plants. First hose the plants down with a good blast of water. This will remove most of them from the plant. Then you can spray with Neem Oil to rid your plants of pests. It’s one of the best organic products on the market to ridding plants of pests.

After doing this, look each plant over and remove any dead limbs or leaves along with pruning the plant if it has grown quite a bit over the summer. If it needs repotting, now is the time to do so and prune the roots while you have it out of the pot as this will help establish new roots. Be sure to plant in a pot 2 inches larger than the current pot if the root ball is tight against the current pot.

Depending on the number of plants you have to bring inside, acclimating your plants to inside life is a good idea. Do this when the temperatures get 50°F or lower at night. Bring them inside and put back outside during the day. Gradually increase the amount of time over the next two weeks until you have it inside full time.

If you are not able to do this, gradually move those from the sun into the shade leaving them for a couple of weeks getting use to the light difference, then move inside.

Once inside, pick an area that has a stable temperature between 60-70°F day round. Temperature fluctuations are not good for plants and neither are being in drafts. For example, by the front door is drafty along with temperature changes.

Inside the home our humidity runs around 40% or less. Plants need much higher humidity levels. Misting your plant several times a day will help provide the needed air moisture. Or, you can set up humidity trays, small trays filled with pebbles and water. The water evaporates providing humidity to the plants. Be sure to watch as they must be refilled every couple of days. A humidifier is also good to use.

Inside plants don’t require as must water as when outside. If you do not have a moisture meter to check if the plant needs water, stick your finger about one inch below the soil surface. If it is moist, then it doesn’t need water. If it is dry, water. Most important is not overwater while the plants are inside. This can cause the plant to die.

When you bring your plants inside you should place them near a sunny window so they can get as much natural light as possible. They still need to get sunlight in order to photosynthesis (make their food every day). If you don’t have an area of natural light purchase grow lights. They are on the market now within everyone’s purchasing ability.

If you put your plants in your garage, make sure there is light for them along with a heat source. Garages get cold when the temperatures get low. For a time until I got my greenhouse, we used our back porch as a temporary greenhouse. My husband built a frame with 1×1’s and we enclosed it with plastic. I used a small space heater which worked great.

For those of you who have perennials and other plants in the yard, try these suggestions. First, do not cut them back until spring. If you cut them back now, they will try to put out new growth which the first freeze will damage more of the plant than what would have been by not cutting it back. Mulch, mulch, and mulch the base and out from of the plant. The mulch will keep in the heat and moisture from the ground saving the roots and in spring your plant will put forth new growth. Then you can cut it back once you see it has started to sprout from on the stalks and limbs. Remove mulch from the base to prevent diseases then.

Any questions can be sent ocmg1990@gmail.com or call our HotLine 409 882-7010 Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.