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Prepping for the winter months ahead

Getting a jump start on protecting non-hardy tropicals

October 08, 2010 | 22787 Views | 0 Comments

OK, so we know this site is mainly devoted to Hardy Tropicals, but let's be honest... we all grow plants that don't belong in our zones. They need some love (and winter protection) too. It's getting close to that time of year that most of us gardener dread - the arrival of Jack Frost. Here in central South Carolina we've already seen temperature dip into the low 40's, which means it's probably not going to be long before the first frost is forecast in the coming weeks. This is a good time to get a jump start on your winter prepping for your non-hardy tropicals.

Here's a few simple and very basic things we do to prep for winter.

1.) We take inventory of everything in the yard that will have to come indoors for the winter. In our case, that's our garage - where we utilize Metal Halide lights to keep the plants alive. We try and record pot sizes as well so we know how much space we're going to need. It seems like every year the inventory list gets bigger doesn't it?

2.) We clean up and trim up the plants that will come indoors. Removal of dead leaves, insects, and other debris helps get our plants ready for the indoor months.

3.) We clean up and prep the garage and/or greenhouse(s) for the plants we'll be moving in. Getting all the hoses in places for watering, figuring out where our walking paths will be, etc. Usually I test my halide lights to insure they are also working correctly and get all my power cords in place. This year, for 2010, we've added two new 400W halides in addition to our two 1000W halides, so we'll have extra growing space. Now if I could only find a way to keep the power bill from going through the roof.

4.) A few days before the first frost is forecast, we'll pull up our plants from the ground (we sink in a lot of our tropical planted pots so they look like they are planted) and dig up any other plants we want to save for potting (bananas and such), so that we can move everything indoors quickly before the coldest nights are upon us. This usually is a lot of work, but the preparation is well worth it.

5.) Finally the big day arrives where everything gets moved indoors prior to the first nights frost or freeze. If we've planned properly, this usually goes off without a problem and everything fits as we've expected. Without proper planning, this can turn into a stressful and frenzied event. Something as simple as moving plants indoors for the winter can be a dreadful task without proper preparation and/or planning.

6.) Everything we've left in the yard that's hardy we usually try and protect with a good mulch of wood chips, straw, or dirt. A few of the bananas we'll wrap as well, though we're still debating how effective (if at all) that really is. We lost so many bananas last winter, even those that were protected didn't fair well; but then again, it was a pretty harsh winter for us. But we do what we can to protect our hardier tropicals outdoors.

7.) We usually wait a few days or even a week or more before our first watering of the plants. They are acclimating to the new lighting and many are probably going into dormancy for the winter. Once they've adjusted some, we'll water them lightly for the first time.

8.) Then we wait. 5-6 months later everything can go back out into the yard. Over the winter it's usually a battle with insects and knowing how much (or how much not) to water. Usually we loose a few things along the way, while other plants are happy troopers and even grow through the winter.

For us here in central SC, we're getting close to step 4. It won't be too much longer before the first frosts. If we're lucky it'll be November. Last year the first frosts were early in mid-October. But we're hoping this warm summer continues a bit longer into the fall.

Happy Gardening - and prepping for the winter.



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