Originally Published: October 22, 2010 9:55 p.m.
Frost is coming! If you want to salvage some of your container plants, bring them indoors before the first frost. Making this big move takes time and energy but, with just a little planning, and done correctly, your plants will provide winter-long enjoyment indoors, thrive in good health, and be ready for their move back to the patio come spring.
The Big Cut: This is the time to give these plants their fall haircuts. Prune off dead flowers, yellowed leaves and anything else you consider unsightly. With a few more snips, give shape and balance to the remaining foliage. This cosmetic touchup allows for maximum air circulation that reduces debilitating bacterial and fungal growth. This is not a buzz-cut, only a trim - so leave on lots of the green leaves.
Give Them the Big Flush: Our local water contains salt and minerals that build up in the soil and on the containers. Flush each plant with at least a gallon of water until the water is flowing freely from the bottom of the container. Another goal of this more than generous watering is to drown and flush unwanted insects living in the soil, so ... flush, flush, flush!
Don't Bug Me: Bugs will be washed out of the soil but insect eggs might remain and the warmer indoor temps will cause those eggs to hatch right away, rewarding you with huge indoor colonies of aphids, earwigs, spiders, mealy bugs, and fungus gnats. To head off these unwanted plant squatters before bringing your future houseplants indoors, spray them with "Triple Action." It's natural and safe so saturate the stems, foliage, and base of each plant with this organic spray.
A Clean Affair: Take this opportunity to clean up the outsides of the containers. Wash and brush off mineral residue, debris and dirty spots that have settled on the pots. Less than pristine containers are common and acceptable on a patio, but not so welcomed in a living room.
A New Container: Now is the time to consider repotting. If plants have been hard to keep watered, or the roots noticeably spiral around or bunch up in the pot, it is time to repot. Contrary to popular belief, houseplants like to be slightly root bound. Too much soil causes plants to concentrate their energies on putting out new roots, thereby reducing the flower count and leaf formation. The most important consideration when repotting is to use a really good potting soil.
The soil is where the science of plant health starts. This is where it pays to ask your local garden center for some advice. Concerned with the quality of potting soil here at the garden center, I created my own special blend. Whichever potting medium you choose, I recommend spending the couple extra dollars on the more expensive soil. The better soils have more perlite, peat moss and organic fertilizers. All are expensive ingredients, but well worth the soil investment and increased gardening successes.
Soil Insects Gone: Before bringing potted plants indoors be sure to apply "Systemic Houseplant Insect Control" granules to the soil. Then lightly water each treated plant, which will release this granular insecticide, easily exterminating soil-loving insects and providing long-term insect prevention.
Thank you for your positive comments on buying local produce and merchandise, supporting small family-owned businesses, and the advice and unique products designed specifically by local merchants. Garden centers are so "local" that we are one step removed from farmers' markets, farms and the earth itself. Being so close to the soil is what I love about the nursery business. Fresh and healthy local food is what I find customers are looking for, so supporting local farmers instead of conglomerates just seems the logical thing to do. I even have considered opening a year-round farmers' market in the garden center.
Next time you visit, let me know what you think of the farmers' market idea. All it would take to launch this interesting project is the hiring of the right produce manager.
Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain says, "My personal mission is to help local homeowners garden smarter and get our local garden timing right." Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, or may be contacted through www.wattersonline.com.