Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Big Freeze

We are supposed to get a hard frost tonight so for all intents and purposes our growing season is over. Last weekend I brought in my tropical patio plants after a touch of cold got my taro. It is recovering but several of the leaves are toast. At the last minute today I decided to try to over winte my rosemary plant. I like cooking with fresh herbs and it was great having an herb container right outside my kitchen door. The basil had gone to flower months ago, but the thyme and rosemary were doing well. Thyme is a perennial, even here, but not the rosemary. Since it was going to die anyway I figure I don't have anything to lose by bringing it indoors.

There are a few things to remember about bringing plants indoors. More than likely I will have brought in a few unwanted guests (insects) with my plants. I can use systemics on my tropicals but not on edible plants. I can get sticky traps and wipe down the plants to try and physically remove any insect eggs from the leaves.

Usually the plant will undergo a kind of "culture" shock when brought indoors. Even the sunniest spot in your house is not the same as being outside in the sun. You may notice the leaves drooping or even dropping. Resist the urge to water unless you have checked the soil and found it dry. Dropping leaves is a natural part of the plant's effort to acclimate itself to its new environment. Eventually (hopefully) the leaves will grow back and these new leaves will be acclimated to the new conditions. Also, resist the urge to fertilize. Feeding a plant when it is not growing much causes the new growth to be weak and leggy.

I have a spot behind my kitchen sink that is pretty sunny and also conveniently located for cooking so that is where my rosemary will go. I hope it likes it there.

Another factor in surviving winter months for all house plants is humidity. When the furnace is running it really dries out the air and this is bad for most plants. Most plants like about a 50% humidity level. You can increase the humidity around the plant by misting it periodically or by placing trays of water near the plant. Lori always recommends filling a saucer with pebbles and then adding water. Put the plant on top of the pebbles so that it is not actually sitting in the water. This will create a constant humidity dome around the plant.

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