Monday, November 26, 2012

Winterizing

I've had a few people ask me to share the steps I go through to get my garden ready for the winter. Even though it feels a little “Jerry Springer” (you know like I’m airing the most eccentric parts of my personality to the world) I will oblige.

The first step took place back in October, the 10th, 11th and 12th to be exact. I know that sounds early but the forecasters were all in agreement that as of Friday the 12th our streak of sunny dry days was to end, and not in a subtle way but 3 days of soaking downpours (and get this...we've received over 13" of rain since that day just shy of two months ago). It was time to start taking the containers of non hardy succulents inside for the winter. The temperatures were still fine but a dry container weighs a lot less than a wet one. And these plants will winter over with greater success if they don’t head inside soaking wet. Plus it’s nice to work in the sunshine right? I cleaned up each plant and container before hauling them down to the basement…

There are a couple of plants here that are pretty much hardy in Portland, but I’m not sure their container could withstand a freeze, so those come down here too rather than staying outside.

For the same reason I also started to move the really large containers that will spend winter outside from on the patio to up, under the shade pavilion. Not everything, but at least the ones that really want to stay dry. And finally I dug the few in-ground Agaves that aren't hardy in Zone 8…

And potted them up for indoors.

They were in the ground because they weren't looking so good and rather than toss them I gave them a second chance. So far this technique has always worked for me, let them spread their roots a bit and they eventually perk up, even if they have to return to a container later.

So that all happened the 2nd week in October, after that I ignored my garden responsibilities until November 3rd, that’s the day we wrapped the shade pavilion turning it into a makeshift greenhouse. I was dreading this.

Not because the process is difficult, it’s actually rather simple…thanks to my problem solving, component thinking, husband.

No I was dreading it because it’s finally admitting there are no more days to be spent outside enjoying the garden. Oh I’ll be out there, working and studying the plants, but there won’t be any relaxing on the patio or lying in the grass. Not for months...

Okay snap out of it! Summer's over and winter is on the way, time to fill the shade pavilion greenhouse…

And move a couple of tender things right up near the back door so they can come inside when the temperature drops.

All that heavy lifting and no visit to the Chiropractor! Yay!

The next thing on the list was to take cuttings of the tender succulents planted in the ground.

I’d been doing this in small increments up until the week of Nov 15th but since we were predicted to get a freeze on the 15th and 16th I went into overtime and cut cut cut…(the freeze didn't happen)

Wow. That’s a lot of plants, especially considering I’d already done about this many earlier. The thing that really amazed me was most of these I overwintered last year on our bedroom windowsill. Things grew a little over the summer. Now they’re cut back, potted up and ready for another winter.

Finally I moved some of the containers that I would like to get a little protection from the wind and rain up against the shade pavilion.

And I stopped to look at the empty patio.

So you can see there are a few steps that I go through. Some just precautionary, some very necessary, but when you spread them out over a month and a half it isn't that much work. Or so I tell myself. And lest you think I've completed all my chores there are still a few stragglers. I still haven’t done anything with the “pond” plants, other than sit them down further in the tank when the wind got out of control crazy.

And I realized the other day I haven’t taken any cuttings from this plant. Guess I better get busy...

42 comments:

  1. You're smart to spread the work out over the month-plus. Our relatively mild fall (so far) has been a bonus to the process of winterizing, too. I'm working on the same effort, though I don't have anywhere near your volume of plants to move. Oh, and your Sonchus looks very happy in the shade pavillion!

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    1. I forget that indeed our fall has been so mild, mainly because of the nonstop rain.

      The Sonchus is one of the few plants that I actually have to water over the winter so it's right up near the door to make it easy, as a bonus that means it's near the heat source too, should we need it.

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  2. Crazy what one does for love! We know that one is supposed to allow succulent cuttings to dry before potting them but it looks like you're going to throw them into your clothes dryer. Is that some sort of newfangled technique? Sorry about the end of summer.

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    1. So true! (just ask Andrew)

      No, the reason they're on the dryer is that was the only surface available with good light...in fact just now before starting the laundry I shuffled the rest of them over with the other plants under lights.

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  3. That is quite a double duty set up you have there. I think I may need to add another place to put overwintering plants as I am bursting at the seams too. What mixture do you put your cuttings in? Homemade?

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    1. I'm afraid it's just regular potting soil that I use for the cuttings (I do let the ends callous over before I plant them). I'm sure they'd love something special but they'll just have to make do!

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  4. I need a shade pavilion that turns into a greenhouse! a few weeks ago I was researching greenhouses and dreaming of an incredible expansion that would allow for year round growing and a quasi outdoor space that could be enjoyed throughout the winter - albeit with lots of heat. Oh that would be swell. Good job on your winterizing efforts! It pays off to have it all done in advance.

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    1. Yes you do! I dream of a U shaped house and the center space would be my conservatory...so wonderful!

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  5. I love the way you turn your shade pavilion into a greenhouse. It's brilliant! I have room for a shade pavilion/gazebo-like structure, and I'd also love a winter greenhouse, but mine would be for starting seeds. Maybe some day.

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    1. It's good to dream, you never know when "someday" will show up! (I'll let Andrew know he's brilliant, he'll appreciate that)

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  6. Wow, I wish I had started in mid-October. I spent this weekend scrambling to get everything into the garage. We've got a 21ºF low forecast for tonight, so anything I don't get indoors is probably done for.

    My last-minute scrambles every year has taught me that some plants can really take abuse though, living for months with just a little light in the garage, or spending 5 months in a bag or box on a shelf. Haven't even moved much under the grow lights yet...

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    1. I wish the rain would have held off so I could have started later! It was too early but c'est la vie.

      21F!!! Burr.

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  7. Boy, you are SO dedicated! Yay for you...

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    1. Dedicated is a much nicer word than crazy, I'll take it!

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  8. I do admire your forethought and planning! I feel a bit guilty for not having to go to the same lengths, but I'll be doing my fair share of hauling plants inside soon enough--although on a much smaller scale.

    Regarding the cuttings you took: Do you overwinter them like that or do you stick them in soil so they can root?

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    1. I stick the cuttings in the soil so they can root. Last spring I just popped them out of the containers and into the ground, it worked great.

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  9. Sheesh! But if I had those goodies, I would protect them, as well. I'll just keep watering everything outside, 60F again like every day, and now breezy to add to the drying effect. Those scalloped pots in pic #3...oooh!

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    1. We've been talking about visiting the in-laws and I've been checking out the temps in T or C...nice warm sunny days but damn! Those are some cool nights!

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  10. I too moved all my bigger pots while they were dry, after they sit in the rain forget about it...Love your make-shift greenhouse structure, was wondering how it went together, very clever. The plants all huddled in the basement is awesome, looks like a retail space. What are your open hours for business? See a few Agaves and others I would like to add to my collection.

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    1. Come on over! Cash only please...

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  11. Not eccentric at all, rather very organised! And good job on the shade pavilion too :)

    Your basement looks so bright, does it have a window that lets some light in or is that artificial lighting? I remember you featuring about storing plants in your basement many times before, just can't remember whether you had a window there or none.

    By featuring your preparations for winter you're also helping out others by giving ideas how things can be done.

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    1. There is a window right by where the plants live, but it's up high and pretty small, so not a lot of light comes in that way. The exception is on sunny afternoons when for about a half hour there is actual sunlight on some of the plants. That always makes me very happy! (and them too I'm sure)

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  12. Good work Loree!

    What an empty looking patio :(

    The only positive I can can think about removing pots and plants is that it gives one a different view on the garden. I have noticed it myself this year that as some of the herbaceous has died back and I have cut it back I now get a better view in around the base of some of my bamboos and whilst I would prefer it was still summer it at least gives me something else to look at during these bleak months.

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    1. It kind of amazes me how big the patio is when it's empty! And you're right...it does allow an entirely different way of seeing the plants near by. In fact my fav plant next week (because I'd already selected this weeks) was hidden for months by the containers on the patio. Now is its turn to shine!

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  13. Well I can't imagine being able to overwinter succulents in zone 6 but I loved watching the process you go through to pull it off. Me thinks your hubby loves you very much. Thanks for the experience.

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    1. Me thinks you're right...and I am lucky.

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  14. All your plants look snug like a bug in a rug! Good job you guys - cheers to your shade/greenhouse!

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  15. I really enjoyed this. A well written guide to the insanity of it all. I start moving in plants around the same time, slowly, 2-3 to the greenhouse as I go to work. Spreading it out makes it less daunting, but it a serious effort at times. It's a nice way to appreciate the season's growth, inspect and clean.

    Really enjoying your posts, thanks for sharing

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    1. "the insanity of it all"...well said! And I know you know what it's all about. Thank you Nat!

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  16. You and your husband are amazing! Over wintering succulents in your zone is quite a chore. Thank goodness we love our plants. I keep watching the 10 day forecast and looking for the cooler night but so far so good. All my succulents are still outside and happy. But we are expected to have a lot of rain in the next few days. I really like what your hubby did with your pavilion. We will be turning my gazebo into a greenhouse soon enough and what a pain that is. But it is worth it!

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    1. So worth it! I can't bear to just let a plant die...I have to try and keep it alive. I hope your gazebo to greenhouse transition goes smoothly. I remember seeing pictures last year and it looked like a pretty sweet set up!

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  17. Makes me feel worn out just reading about your process. I don't think I'd be prepared to do all that work, although I've also got a few zone 10 plants of my own that would prefer to be kept out of the rains. I won't rub it in that we usually don't drop much below 29°F for most of the winter. My biggest problem is no winter sun due to all the trees and surrounding buildings, amd if we get intense Portland-style rains, things tend to rot. All your tender stuff could stay out all winter here in Berkeley. Do you all ever consider scaling back on the tender stuff and substitute with alternate hardier stuff? I thank my lucky stars I don't have to move all that stuff, or pay for greenhouse heating and higher electric bill for plant lights. I guess it's all part of being obsessive/compulsive in service of our art. I don't know of any local gardeners that do your level of winter protection, with the possible exception of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, but they mostly just cover plants in place. I think in general we're a bit more laid back/lazy about working that hard. Here's hoping we all get through the winter okay, and to an early spring.
    David in Berkeley

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    1. To answer your question about considering scaling back...yes! Every spring when I start hauling things out. But then I see something and fall in love with it and the collection just grows. As you can see from the picture of the inside of the sp-greenhouse there isn't much room for more cold-hardy stuff either.

      Interestingly the lights in the basement really don't add much to our electric bill, and we only run the outside heater on the coldest of nights, but that can add up. I visited the RBG early last spring and got to see some of that protection in place. I don't think I could ever go that route because I still want to enjoy my garden even in the winter and structures like that remind me of an RV with a tarp over it (ugly). The sp-greenhouse is no beauty but its in a part of the garden that I can't see without going around the garage so it's not an eyesore.

      I second your hope for getting through winter and an early spring!

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  18. So tidy! Now I have to get into that greenhouse to clear away the debris.

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  19. What we zone pushing gardeners go through to keep all the balls in the air. I love the way your shade pavillion transforms into a greenhouse. Great post!

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  20. OMG...you make me feel SO LAZY...and I still think your hubby is a genius for rigging up the shade pavilion that way!

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    1. I couldn't agree more...that man sees a problem and bam! He's at work creating a solution.

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  21. I wanna be like you some day. I did move a few plants to the back porch for protection from the rain. And I wrote myself a BIG note to pot succulents today. This is why your garden is so fabulous. Dedication, not crazy at all...

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    1. Your back porch is ideal, I wish I had it! Have fun playing with your plants today...hope your fingers don't freeze...it's cold out there!

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