In the Dirt by Ray Greenstreet
Now that early fall weather has finally started to arrive, it is time to prepare for all the changes that brings. Most annuals and summer perennials will soon finish flowering. It’s easy to add a lot of color with fall-blooming plants like Asters, Mums, Peppers, and Cabbages.
All of these plants are easy to find and range from adding dramatic pops of color to providing long-season foliage that will take garden into winter. Fall Bulbs will be arriving soon, and bulbs are an easy way to plant ahead, adding big-impact flowers for next year’s garden.
Gardens can use a lot of other maintenance this time of year, from cutting back perennials that have finished for the season to mulching garden beds to protect and insulate the more cold-sensitive plants through winter.
As nighttime temperatures begin to drop, keep an eye on daily forecast. We are still a long way from freezing temperatures, but many plants will suffer cold damage 10 or 20 degrees above freezing. To be on the safe side, if the daily low temperature is below 55, it’s time to bring houseplants, Tropicals, and any other cold-sensitive plant indoors to a warmer, protected space. For most of us, that means bringing them into our house where we are still going to see them every day and hopefully they will continue to look nice.
When bringing plants inside, it is important to check for visible signs of pests like mealy bugs or spider mites. Even if you don’t see symptoms, it is advisable to give your plants a preventative treatment with insecticidal soap, neem oil, horticultural oil, or Mite-X. Microscopic juveniles of various pests can ride unseen on plants and if left untreated, can multiply and spread rapidly to other plants. Most plants will grow much more rapidly outside than they will indoors, and size is a common limiting factor in people’s ability to overwinter many tropicals like hibiscus or gardenias.
Don’t be afraid to cut them back, removing a large portion of each branch—just make sure to leave some of the leaves and not cut below the major branching points. Branches and leaves will regrow.
Placement of tropical plants can be tricky over winter. Often it is impossible to provide an optimal level of sunlight, leaving the plants growing in the equivalent of full shade. If they are sun-loving plants, do your best to give them as much light as you can; it will likely be enough to keep them alive until spring. Also, keep in mind that water demands change dramatically when plants are relocated. Be careful not to overwater.
Another factor to consider is the onslaught of seasonal allergies that fall brings with molding leaves and other debris. For many, this means that despite the wonderful fall temperatures, many people spend more time indoors with windows sealed—lasting until after allergy season comes and goes again in spring. That’s a large part of the year to be breathing mostly stale, indoor air.
The team here at Greenstreet recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for a revolutionary hybrid smart-planter/air purifier called brēth. You can learn more at gobreth.com but in short, it’s a great way to breath better quality air, particularly if you like having plants in your home.
Ray Greenstreet is the owner of Greenstreet Gardens.