It is something we don’t really have to think about in South Florida, how freezing temperatures wreak havoc on gardens not located so close to the equator. Here we can keep our plants out in the sunshine year-round, but others are not so lucky. If precautions are not taken by the time the first frost hits, it can do irreparable damage to all the hard work you’ve put in to keep your garden looking its best. Fear not! If you live where winter is headed, there are plenty of options to help your garden make it through a White Christmas!
1. Health is wealth! Ensure your plant, whether in ground or in a pot, is healthy and pest free before overwintering. When your plants go dormant, it is harder for them to fight against diseases and pests. Your plants should be fertilized, trimmed and watered regularly throughout the Spring and Summer (based on each plants particular needs) to give it the best chance of survival when it turns chilly.
2. Prune before you move! Too much stress can cause damage, and even kill a plant. It is ideal to complete any last maintenance on your plant a few weeks before you are ready to bring it indoors! This allows the plant to recover and harden after pruning or re-potting so it is ready for the next change – being moved inside.
3. Don’t forget to water! The amount of water a plant needs while overwintering is significantly less than during warmer months/growing season, but your plants will still be thirsty! The amount of water varies by plant, but generally 1 inch of water per week should keep them hydrated. Be careful! There should never be sitting water – cold, wet conditions can leave plants vulnerable to disease!
4. Mulch: The Double Threat. Mulch can be a great addition to your overwintering kit. Mulch retains moisture and traps air beneath its surface, helping your plants roots stay a little warmer. Keep an eye on the moisture levels though, we know moist conditions are ideal for disease.
5. Need a little warmth? For nights (or days!) when the temperature drops below 30˚, it may be wise to utilize frost shield bags or even blankets to protect roots and foliage. In some cases, a small heater may be helpful to increase temperatures. Christmas lights can be placed around the roots to warm the plant as well!
6. Sunshine…my only sunshine… Many plants survive overwintering with limited amounts of sunlight, but this will vary based on the type of plant. If you notice dropped leaves or yellowing of the plant, this could indicate they need more light. If you have a protected space with access to more sunshine, try to relocate otherwise, you can supplement with grow lights.
When the last frost has come and gone, and you’re ready to bring these babies back outside…but…not everyone looks as great as they did going in, don’t despair and don’t give up! Sometimes, it just happens. They may even return to life with some Springtime TLC! Trim any dead or dying pieces, feed, and let Mother Nature work her magic.
Though it may sound a little complicated, overwintering can help your plants survive the toughest winter conditions, allowing you to enjoy your hard work year after year – and without having to purchase replacement plants – keeping your wallet happy too!
Good luck, and happy Fall!