Winter is a nightmare for any outdoor gardener because it forces us to stop gardening for several months. It is nightmare for the plants themselves, too, because those plants which are not cold-weather hardy somehow need to survive cold temperatures. This is where the concept of over-wintering comes in. Over-wintering is a process where you bring you plants indoors once the weather cools down so they have a warm space to live and can continue to grow. Come spring, they can start to flower and produce.
It is not hard to properly over-winter your plants. However, there are a few things you need to remember so that you can do it successfully.
Firstly, you need to know when to bring your plants indoors. Do it just before the first frost. Better to be safe and bring your plants inside early than to risk your plants getting hurt and not recovering indoors, under artificial light.
Secondly, it is also important to decide which plants are healthy and well enough to actually survive the transition from outdoors to indoor conditions. Because the over-wintering process puts quite a lot of stress on the plants, those that are weak might not be able to adapt to the new conditions. Make sure that you bring in healthy plants and do it in a way that is the least stressful for them. A tip here is to re-pot these plants in fresh soil with fertilizer so they get as many nutrients as possible and don’t forget to give them a lot of water, too, so they can quickly adjust to their new conditions.
Also, make sure that you don’t bring indoor plants that are insect-infested or have some kind of disease. Indoors means a warm environment that can become a breeding ground. The more bugs and disease breed, the more they will spread throughout your plants, and it can be very hard to control insects and plant diseases in an indoor space.
Once your plants are safe and sound indoors, you need to seriously think about the light you will be giving them. Think about whether you will add artificial light, such as t5 grow lights, or can get away with only natural light. I would recommend adding at least one artificial light, because winters tend to be dark, which can result in the plants not growing as well. Artificial light can give your plants additional light that helps them thrive.
You also need to think about light cycles, or how many hours of light and darkness the plants will receive. If you are using artificial lighting, this task will be easier for you, as you can turn the light on and off according to a schedule that you decide. Usually these light cycles are somewhere between 8 hours of light /16 hours of dark and 18 hours of light and 4 hours of dark. You can determine which light cycle to use based on what plants you are growing. Just remember that the more light plants receive, the faster they grow. If you don’t want your plants to grow too much indoors, give them a little less light. If you choose not to use additional lighting, place the plants close to the window so that during the day they get as much light as possible.
Finally, once you bring the plants indoors, make sure that you put them on a light cycle that is close to the natural light cycle during that time of year, and keep it that way for at least the first week. This will lessen the stress of the transition for the plants. After the first week, you can slowly regulate the light cycle (increase or decrease the hours of light you give to the plants) according to your preference.
The process of over-wintering depends on multiple factors. But the best plants to over-winter are annuals because you can grow these plants larger and stronger during the winter indoors. Tropical plants are also good candidates. By over-wintering them, you actually keep them alive and well so that they survive until the next season.
Don’t let your plants go to waste because the weather is too cold for them. Bring them indoors and over-winter them until the next gardening season starts.
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