Baby, it’s finally cold outside, so we feel comfortable in saying that winter is definitely here! Outside, seeds and buds are settling in for their seasonal nap. The earth is still. Inside our homes, we’re warm and happy in rooms sparkling with bright lights, views of any impending storms softened by steamy windows. This time of year we gather together to celebrate family and friends. But that doesn’t mean that you should neglect your indoor gardening chores.
Regularly check on any dormant plants that you are storing for the winter. Geraniums are a classic example. The stems should be firm. Remove any parts that are soft and mushy and try keeping the cuttings drier. Move them to a cooler location if they begin to grow. If the growth continues, there isn’t anything else to do but pot them up and place in a warm, sunny window. Keep trimming back any weak or straggly growth. This will ensure a stronger plant with better form in the spring.
If you took cuttings from your favorite coleus or those hard-to-find bedding impatiens, be sure to inspect them regularly for pesky spider mites and white flies. These pests are inevitable during the winter months. A periodic spray of insecticidal soap will help to keep things under control. Spray about once 7 to 10 days. If you encounter an infestation, consider discarding the cuttings. These critters will spread like wildfire to lots of other plants in your house.
And keep an eye out for powdery mildew. This fungal disease can appear overnight and spreads quickly if left untreated. An effective home remedy for mildew is one teaspoon of baking soda in a quart of lukewarm water. Spray this mixture at weekly intervals on the foliage until symptoms stop. Try to spray in the morning so that the foliage is not wet at night. Plants often affected by mildew include begonias, impatiens and most herbs, so watch these carefully for any signs of discolored leaves.
Were you able to get your bulbs planted? Getting bulbs into the ground means that we can sit back and anticipate those first blooms of spring. Even though the soil surface isn’t quite frozen yet, it’s now a bit late for planting bulbs in the ground as there isn’t enough time for them to develop roots. Do you have some bulbs that you haven’t had a chance to plant yet? Try forcing them! Pot them up and store in an inside garage corner. If you place the pots in a cooler, that’s even better. The goal is to keep them cold, but not frozen. Check for watering every other week or so. Most bulbs need a chill period of 12 to 16 weeks. Starting now means that you’ll be able to bring them indoors in mid to late March.
If you have summer bulbs or tubers like cannas, begonias or gladiolas in storage, start checking them on a regular basis as well. No one wants to discover a pile of mush in mid-winter that used to be dahlias. Discard anything that looks even remotely decayed or moldy. These conditions will spread quickly if left unchecked.
And considering starting a window garden. This is a great project for kids and may distract them a little during their winter break. New seeds from Botanical, packaged for 2024, are available in the Garden Center. Quick-growing leafy crops, like lettuce and microgreens, do well in windowsill gardens and cool situations. Miniature carrots and radishes will need a sunny window. And of course, herbs make delicious additions to those hearty winter soups and stews.