GARDENING BY RONELLA: The benefits of moving plants inside for winter
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Oct 23, 2013 | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you haven’t gotten all your houseplants inside for the winter, it may be too late. Bringing them inside to a warm house may cause leaves to drop but they will grow more so don’t despair. The ficus (or weeping fig), being temperamental at best may look like it is a bare tree if it is left out too long and brought inside. It is one plant that is best to leave inside if you have found just the right spot for it. The reason they don’t do well if taken outside for the summer is that they require moisture and no direct sunlight. They just naturally lose a few leaves in winter so don’t despair. Once they are put in just the right spot, they grow in leaps and bounds and must be trimmed often.

In placing your houseplants inside remember that all blooming plants require some sunlight at least part of the day and they need to be turned often for even blooms. Ferns, vines and other foliage plants do well in North and East widows but flowers are the result of exposure to South and West windows. There are a few plants such as ivies, which will do well in rooms without windows but most plants like at least some light.

I have often written about Ma’s many houseplants, which had to be brought inside for the winter. It was a big operation requiring Pa’s help. He stored the big planks in the barn for the summer so they had to be brought to the house and placed on supports so that they were in tiers like at a ball game, I always thought. Then all those plants were brought inside and placed just right for optimum light for the few that bloomed. By the time I got old enough to be of much help, I no longer lived nearby but I well remember this long process. As in everything she did, Ma was a perfectionist in caring for her plants and they showed it.

Don’t forget to make arrangements for storing wood ashes this winter. They must be stored in buckets and kept in some place out of the rain. So many plants benefit from ashes spread out in beds in spring, most notably asters. However, all perennials, including roses, benefit from a thin layer of ashes because of the potash. Did you know that a burn pile of tree limbs would give you quite a bit of ashes for storing this winter?

Have you noticed that some homeowners have used ornamental grasses in landscaping in front of homes? The ornamental grasses come in so many colors and the plumes are of different sizes and heights that the customary shrubs aren’t needed. Grasses don’t seem to mind the tree roots and walkways that are a problem with many foundation plantings. There are so many advantages to using grasses that they are something to consider as foundation plants or in flowerbeds. The one thing to remember about these grasses is that you must cut them down in spring before the new shoots start coming up.

If you have planted some young trees this fall, I want to caution you to use some kind of wrap to keep the bark from sun scald and also from damages from winter freezes. You can use burlap or paper just for that purpose. Also, you might want to consider the animal repellent called Repels All for deer and rabbit damage.

Again I urge any readers who don’t already have a compost pile to start one now. All the winter peelings, coffee grounds, any uncooked kitchen waste, except meat and citrus, make great compost. Also you can include all the tops of dried perennials and any annuals that you pull out, except for any with mildew, and many other odds and ends. Some people shred newspaper to add to the compost. All dirt from those pots that aren’t going to be used can be emptied on the pile and of course all shredded leaves. The easiest way to save kitchen waste is to keep a covered bucket under the sink dedicated just to compost.

I often think of how Ma handled garden chores to make her garden and flower beds nearly perfect. The straw with manure, which Pa brought to her garden when he cleaned out the stalls, was a great addition. You can add this straw/manure after the ground freezes without worrying about adding it to perennial beds. Ma kept all weeds out of her kitchen garden, along with a little help from Pa but I believe that the tobacco stalks which she used all over the garden, as long as the stalks lasted, were primarily the reason she had so little insect damage. She never knew of systemic insect killers but that is what the tobacco stalks did. The folks who gardened long before my time or yours had evolved methods, which could teach us much today.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or suggestions for future columns. Thanks for your wonderful comments.
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