Gardening is traditionally thought of as a seasonal activity, but cooling temperatures and falling leaves don’t have to signal the end of your growing season. By taking your garden indoors, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor all year round.
For starters, you’ll never have to take an extended break from enjoying your hobby. Plus, you can cook with the same homegrown fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs in the winter time as you enjoy in the summer. Imagine picking some fresh thyme for your chicken soup on a frosty winter evening or mixing up some mint juleps for a Christmas cocktail party with help from your very own garden.
Follow the steps below to bring your garden inside and keep your growing going.
If you live in a region with harsh winters, bringing your perennials indoors in the winter time can give you a year-round harvest while greatly reducing the “bounce back” time in the spring. And doing the same with annuals can allow you to extend their growing season a little longer.
But as harsh as the winter season can be on some plants, the transferring process can be equally risky. Smaller plants with shorter root systems, particularly herbs, transfer best. Basil, parsley, cilantro, aloe, ferns and smaller flowers and vegetables are all relatively easy to transfer indoors.
Plants require even more careful attention if they are to thrive indoors, and the proper amount of food, water and sunlight is vital to surviving the winter.
Nothing beats natural light, so it’s always a good idea to position your indoor garden near a window that lets in ample sunlight (give the windows a thorough cleaning to maximise those rays). But because it isn’t always easy to find such a space, and because there is simply less sunlight during winter months, it’s usually best to supplement natural light with an artificial light source.
For plants that require some humidity, you can fill a tray with marbles and pebbles and then fill with water. Place your plants on top of or next to the tray and top off the water as needed. You can also place a humidifier near your indoor garden to boost the humidity level of the room.
Keep your indoor garden away from areas with cold drafts or hot air vents and ensure the garden is inaccessible to pets.
Timing is an important element of outdoor gardening and the same holds true when moving plants inside. While the first winter frost often signals the end of outdoor growth, some plants may begin to suffer damage in temperatures that dip below 50 degrees. Have your indoor setup ready to go in advance and don’t push your luck too long with outside temperatures.
When you’re ready to make the transfer, begin by inspecting the leaves, stems and soil for insects. Remove them by hand or with a houseplant insecticidal soap to prevent bringing pests into your home. If you notice insects in the soil, soak the soil and roots in lukewarm water for 15 minutes after digging up to chase away bugs.
Trim away dead and rotting material but refrain from cutting away healthy leaves and stems. Heavy pruning promotes new growth and what you really want for your plants in the wintertime is rest, not necessarily a new growth spurt. A short dormancy period is actually good for more tender perennials.
Give the plants a gentle scrub with cotton swabs and water to remove any buildup of pollen, dust or mold that can inhibit the plant from absorbing valuable resources.
Dig carefully and allow plenty of room around the plant as to not damage any roots. Leave a clump of garden soil attached to the root bulb and transfer the plant to a pot or other container with a foundation of potting soil. Use additional potting soil to fill in the rest of the pot and give it a good drink of water.
You may also want to consider leaving the newly potted plants outside for about a week to allow them to adjust to their new home before bringing them inside for the winter. This allows for a more gradual transfer process that can ease the strain of acclimating to a new environment.
Plants that are brought indoors experience a change in environment and will often require some time to get acclimated to a difference in temperature, humidity, lighting and oxygen flow. During this time, your plants may drop a few extra leaves or grow more slowly. But there are some things you can do instead of panicking.