I’ve been hurriedly bringing all of my frost-sensitive houseplants indoors for the winter in a mad rush to beat the season. As always I am doing it at the last minute rather than drawing it out slowly. Many of you are in a similar boat so I thought I’d compile a checklist of things that I do in the process.
- Check all plants thoroughly for critters. Check underneath mulch, leaves, in the crevices between stems…
- Slugs, snails, sowbugs, and earwigs can cram themselves into the tiniest spots. Check all around containers, especially plastic pots and hanging baskets that have a crevice underneath the lip.
- To flush pests out of the soil: Add a few inches of water to a deep sink or bucket and mix in a few drops of natural dish soap (no chemicals or scents added). The unscented Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap works well for this. Set pots in the liquid for a couple of hours. I am often lazy and don’t bother doing this with all pots — just the ones that I know are problematic.
- To flush pests out of the soil: A few drops of neem oil can be added to the water as an alternative to soap.
- Scrub any outside dirt from the side of the pots while they have their turn in the soapy water.
- Lightly shower particularly dirty or pest-infested plants with a hose before bringing them inside.
- Scrub down empty pots with a scrub brush and lightly soapy warm water. Set aside to dry thoroughly before putting them away.
- Place a small piece of newspaper between stacked terracotta pots to keep them from sticking to one another.
- Prune off any dead or diseased leaves and stems and cut back hard any plants that will be going dormant through the winter months.
Behold a colourful mass of naked ladies emerging from a tangle of periwinkle that I happened upon on an afternoon walk. I highly recommend planting colchicum corms in any-sized garden, even if you are a beginner. [How to grow info is here.]
Last weekend while preparing a medley of roasted root vegetables for lunch, I popped outside to collect fresh herbs, as I often do, a pair of scissors in hand.
Living in a place where I can see the garden from the kitchen and simply pop outside to pick herbs on a whim was the dream I had when we were looking for our next place to live. While there was a long list of criteria that superseded this small point, it was ultimately this vision that kept popping up in my mind as an ideal.
Prior to that there was always some barrier. In the apartment there was a separation between our living quarters and the rooftop garden. I was never able to look out at it fondly from indoors and popping out for herbs wasn’t really difficult, but it wasn’t accessible in the way our garden is now. Furthermore, a good portion of my herbs were grown in-ground at the community garden plot, which meant planning ahead and cooking with fresh herbs that weren’t minutes or even seconds off of the plant as they are now. It’s one of those small differences that makes me feel happy and grateful to have found this house, regardless of its many (MANY) faults. We’ve affectionately named it “Home of the Half-Assed” for a reason.
But I digress (as always). The real reason for this post wasn’t to tell you about the garden or my small dream. It was to say that while I was outside collecting herbs, I remembered the Jerusalem artichokes that have been waiting in the ground to be harvested. These chunky tubers taste best after they’ve been touched by the cold weather, but I will admit that the real reason I had put off harvesting them was that I was afraid to face the sheer quantity of tubers that are lurking below the surface, and the work I will need to do to preserve some of them. I’m still dealing with the tomatoes, believe it or not!
We arrived home late from an evening spent with friends on Thursday, October 27 to the realization that several plants and crops would be spoiled or dead by the morning if we did not act fast. So it was in a panic that we bundled up and headed outside with flashlights and bowls to collect as many of the remaining green tomatoes as we could manage, along with pots of tender perennials that were meant to be overwintered inside. I’m so grateful that we got home when we did because some of the most exposed plants were already covered in frost and others were slightly frozen!
The kitchen was a disaster for days afterward. Every large bowl in the house was filled to overflowing! The basement and fridge doors along with the coffee machine were inaccessible. Guess which hurdle was tackled first?
With a heavy heart, I pulled up and composted the roselle plants (Hibiscus sabdariffa) this weekend.
They were done. The cold had become too much for them. Their leaves were turning crispy and dropping rapidly. Amazingly, the false roselle is still going and has not suffered the same damage. It seems to tolerate the cold better so I have left it in for the time being.
I had hoped to make sorrel (the drink) this winter using my own homegrown flowers, but alas none of the hibiscus plants made it that far. The two sabdariffa plants did produce tiny flower buds, but the cold came on and stopped their development before they could reach a mature size.