by Charlene Burgi
Jack and I recently took the pups, Sassy and Misty, for a ride along the forest roads in Modoc and Lassen Counties. Hints of yellow and orange could be seen coming from deciduous trees and shrubs throughout the heavily coniferous forest. The leaf color changes turned our attention to what we needed to do to prepare for the change of season. We had already experienced two hard frosts that burned back much of the vegetable garden. The forest was telling us the clock was ticking, as was the weather report.
We learned the evening temperatures would drop below freezing this week. Many of our container plants summer outdoors under the covered decks but are relegated to indoor living for the cold winter months. Luckily, they were saved during the hard freeze by the overhead coverings, but the time for outdoor living was drawing to a close.
Many plants appreciate protection from cold temperatures, but there is a procedure to follow. If you are moving plants inside during the winter, find a vessel that is conducive to both indoor and outdoor living. For example, Jack’s mother had a plant that we inherited some twenty-plus years ago. Every year we watched the plant come near to “melting” in Marin when the temperatures dropped. Lassen winter temperatures would certainly be suicide for this treasure. I purchased a heavily glazed pot to accent the indoor décor, bought a matching saucer to capture any excess from overhead watering and placed it on a dolly with wheels for ease of moving. Before coming indoors, the leaves of the plant are sprayed with water to dislodge any hidden insects.
This would also be the time to transplant if a plant has lived in a container longer than three years. New soil and a bigger container allow for room to grow. A good organic fertilizer or top-dressing of light compost would be a bonus. And the timing is perfect as the evening temperatures start to drop. Plan now to prevent shock to your plants from the vast temperature changes to come.
You might be thinking that Marin doesn’t need to worry about such things. I beg to differ. Many of our plants border on tropical. Citrus shudder at the frost, and bougainvillea often curl up their toes as the mercury plummets. Many days when we lived in Marin, makeshift, ragtag tents were placed over the treasures in my garden to protect them from the cold. Now that we are in Lassen, I think fondly of the orangeries used in Europe during the 17th through the 19th centuries, and it makes me thankful for my gift to me when I retired: today’s version of the orangery—the greenhouse. I am seriously considering putting a lemon tree in there as I miss the heavy production of that Meyer Improved lemon!
Convenience is another reason to bring plants indoors. Many of us have herbs growing in the garden. Rain often deters us from trudging into the garden to pick herbs for our favorite dish. May I suggest digging up some of those herbs right now, placing them in a pretty container and growing them indoors for easy access? Those plants will be ready to transplant outside in the spring and be well established thanks to your care! Just be certain to place them in a bright window and keep them watered!
Speaking of water, while I was writing the blog the pups managed to hit the shut-off valve to the future drip system … and yet another immediate chore added to the list …
MMWD is now offering rebates for high-efficiency toilets, high-efficiency clothes washers and smart irrigation controllers. To learn more, check out this video created by students at Ex’pression College in Emeryville, then visit marinwater.org/rebates.