Well, I did it. I declared that those cool nights in October were the onset of fall (the first flock of geese has gone south too) and began to focus on how to overwinter plants in an old farmhouse.
They summered quite comfortably outside this year in a semi-shade position but I think they’ll do better indoors for the next six months (Hey, I’m in Canada so you know they aren’t going to be happy outdoors.) I have a new spot for them on a southerly window (they’ll think they’ve died and gone to heaven) close to the watering can so I have great hopes for yet another winter of plant success.
There were a few things I did though before I moved them indoors.
The first step to successfully overwinter plants is to check for insects.
A thorough soap spray on the top and bottom of every leaf was the next step and only after this was done did I admit plants indoors. And, even then I expect to see some aphids and spider mites in another few months.
If you’re bringing plants indoors, a little prevention at the beginning before you allow them indoors will go a long way to keeping them pest free.
I also repotted my two rosemary plants.
Now, I likely shouldn’t have done that but the pots were really too small for the plants and I decided that a little extra space wouldn’t hurt them. Given that I intend to make them the main course in a few Greek salads in the near future, a little repotting is the least of their worries.
I know I was supposed to wait for another few months until the plants are dormant to do this but, as with many gardening rules, I broke this one.
If you do the same, just do not fertilize the newly repotted plant. We don’t want to kick it into new growth at this time of year, we simply want it to develop new roots for next year.
The Key To Overwintering Rosemary
I also find that rosemary is one herb that resents going dry in the winter for too long. In fact, it resents it so much that every time I dry one out for a week, it dies on me. This year, I resolve to water them regularly and not dry the herb on the plant like I did last spring.
My small plant heating mat is also going strong right now.
I wanted a few basil plants for fresh sandwiches in November so I’ve planted several pots (about 6 seeds per 6-inch pot) in the same south-facing window. I fully expect I’ll get several fresh basil plants in each pot that will provide me with some great flavor this fall and early winter.
I might even reseed them in December to take a few really early sprigs next spring. I will feed these basil plants weekly with a regular houseplant food.
Overwintering Parsley Indoors
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great parsley plant this summer or I would have dug it up, repotted it and started harvesting it regularly for the rest of the winter. I toss the mature plant onto the compost pile in the spring (it’s a biennial and won’t produce much in the second year.) And I start with a new plant every spring.
Actually, it is probably a good thing I didn’t have one as that south-facing window would be really, really crowded by now.
Flat leaf parsley
I Overwinter Plants In Clay Pots
You know the other decision I made was that I was tired of having plastic pots on some of my indoor plants. I know they are lighter, less prone to break and are a lot cleaner but what the heck.
I’m a gardener so I’ve obtained enough smaller clay pots to hold my collection; and, by the time you read this, all my indoor plants will be in clay pots. I’m sure I’m being a bit of a garden snob here with this but I really think clay looks better and plants grow better in them. When I rebuild my greenhouse, I’m going to make a rule that only clay pots will be allowed to stay in the house.
Overwinter Plants Successfully With This Finger Touch Test For Watering
The last thing I want to leave you with is a reminder of the finger touch-test for watering your newly moved plants. When I want to know if it is time to water, I put my finger on the soil.
- If it comes away damp, I don’t water that day.
- If it comes away dry, I water until water pours out the bottom of the pot into the saucer.
After an hour, I drain the saucer of the remaining water (you’ll be surprised how much will soak back up into a clay pot) so the plant roots don’t get waterlogged.
The finger test has served me well in all these years of gardening – both indoors and out – and it’s one of the easiest gardening tricks to learn. I mean, how hard is it to tell if your finger is slightly damp?
So, get your prizes indoors now. Dig up a few annual flowering plants along with your herbs and take them indoors too just for the fun of it. Watch out for bugs and keep that water-finger damp and you too can overwinter plants in a sunny windowsill to brighten up those winter days.