This last day in January is the warmest we’ve had in a series of unseasonably warm days. I hesitated to write about taking advantage of these kind of days because when they happen, they only happen once — then it’s winter again. The way this winter is going we may well get a few more of these.
Days like this give us a chance to take care of our plants.
Take today for example, it’s nearly 60 degrees outside. That gave me a chance to haul out all of the plants I’ve been overwintering indoors.
When plants stay inside all winter the insect and mite population can get out of hand. Also, household dust can collect and clog stomata, the microscopic pores on the leaves. It’s through the stomata that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. If those pores become clogged, photosynthesis slows down which weakens the plant.
So, in the winter, plants are subjected to a double whammy. They are weakened by clogged stomata and then attacked by a growing pest problem.
The best thing you can do for your plants is to take them outside on mild winter days and hose them off with water. That’s exactly what I did today.
I also had a chance to moisten the tubers and geraniums that I have in winter storage. It’s a lot easier to do this job outside where I don’t have to worry about getting water all over the place.
Plan to take advantage of the next warm day – if we have one—to help out your plants.
The gardens outside are buttoned up for winter. I took advantage of the cold temperatures a couple of weeks ago to heel in the last of the plants I wanted to save over winter. Usually I like to get this job done by the first week of December.
The only plants left were some of the potted trees that I’m saving for some bonsai and other projects. In addition to my 15 years old bonsai, I tucked away a fewAlbertaspruce, some maples, a couple of tamarack and a small assortment of other potted trees.
There’s a nice sheltered area in our yard under some pine trees where the plants spend the winter.
I start out preparing an overwintering spot by digging a shallow hole that is about half the diameter of the pot. The pot goes into the hole sideways so that the plant is lying right on the ground. I take the soil dug from the hole and cover the pot.
Next, I cover the buried pot and the top of the plant with mulch. Usually I can rake up enough pine needles to do the job. This year I decided to use wheat straw because of the number of plants I had.
My success rate has been quite high using this method. Placing the pot on its side keeps out excess water that may freeze and damage the pot. Laying the trees on the ground protects the branches from extreme temperatures. The mulch protects the plants from exposure to the winter sun, which can dry out small branches. Moreover, it serves as blanket to protect the plants in case we don’t get snow cover.
The soil hasn’t frozen yet and the plants haven’t been exposed to really cold temperatures so there is still time to get those valuable plants tucked in for winter.
This year it looks like I could have waited until the first week of January. I wouldn’t want to bet on it happening again next year.
One of my favorite potted plants is our Olive Tree. We have two of these trees in pots and they seem to be quite happy living in their containers.
They don’t have big showy flowers or give off a sweet scent. What I like is their graceful form.
The branches grow in sweeping curves that support delicate silvery-green leaves that compliment surrounding plants. Olive leaves also make a refreshing tea which I drink from time to time.
Our Olive Trees are about five years old and are nearly three feet tall in the pots and do produce actual olives.
They have to be over wintered indoors because they are not hardy enough to withstand our winters. You can just bring them into a dimly lit, cool storage area (45F-55F) when the autumn temperatures start to fall and reduce watering to a minimum. Or, keep them going all winter in your greenhouse, they’re not all that picky.