Wordless Wednesday–Bringing In The Houseplants

Late September was the coolest in 4 years–so I took time to move some 80 or more plants back indoors for the season.  This is the before photo.

Same view with the indoor and tender plants gone.

My “mixed container border”

My shade loving containers (The orchids aren’t pictured–they’re around back)

All gone!  But there’s always next year!

Preserve Your Herbs With A Basil for Indoors

Fresh herbs are wonderful things–there’s nothing like their flavor.  And after a summer of growing and flavoring with them, it can be tough to say goodbye to those that are true annuals (remember, an annual is defined as a plant whose growing season is completed in a single year–or, as I prefer to think of it, a plant whose job is to set seed and die.  That’s why basil is constantly flowering–because flowers lead to seed!)

While some perennial herbs like chives can be potted up and brought in, and others like thyme will usually do fine on an indoor windowsill, many of the rest can be very tricky.  Rosemary is notoriously finicky about water–too little and it dies, too much and it dies and in between it gets covered with powdery mildew so that you don’t want to use it in cooking anyway.

Basil, on the other hand, is usually thought of as a true annual–the reason it’s always such a struggle to keep it from flowering. There is, however, a perennial basil that can be grown indoors on a windowsill (and when I say perennial, I mean tender perennial–don’t try to winter this basil outdoors in the garden!)

But the advantage of this basil is that, as a perennial, (known botanically as ocimum x ‘Pesto Perpetuo,’) it will continue to grow, albeit slowly and anemically throughout winter without supplemental light.  But there will be fresh leaves to use for any dishes that might require it.  There won’t be enough for pesto, (don’t let the name fool you!) and surely with the quality of winter tomatoes no one would even think of making caprese salads anyway, but for flavoring sauces this plant is just the thing.

It also helps that its leaves are slightly stronger flavored than traditional large leafed basil–so you don’t need as many.

And best of all, it seems to shake off a lot of the fungal problems that other basils have when they are grown in cooler temperatures or in lower light conditions.  It may get a wonky leaf or shoot, but it can easily be pruned out without the whole plant becoming affected.

Overall, this basil is perfect for transitioning to fall–and beyond.  And it makes a pretty addition to the garden as well.  Next year, try it as a landscape plant!

Extending the Season

I had to go out early Saturday morning–so early that I was still driving around with my headlights on.  Amazingly in my neighborhood, we still haven’t had a frost although we’re 2 weeks past our traditional first frost date.  But since it was a full moon, they were predicting  very cold temperatures and frost and freeze warnings were up for the parts of the state that hadn’t had them yet–that included my part of Hartford County.

This was about the most benign version of crop protection that I saw–I also saw all manner of blankets and sheets thrown over things including some creatively patterned ones whose best use was probably crop protection!

And, truth be told, if you are just trying to get past a few cold nights, this is about as good a version of protection from a frost or light freeze as anything.  To invest in something special like a floating row cover or “frost cloth” just for a few days in the spring and fall is probably not worth it, unless you intent to use the floating row cover for insect protection at another point in the season.

Another version of crop protection is the hoop house greenhouse or cold frame.  This is for the more serious gardener.  Eloit Coleman popularized this form of gardening in his book Four Season Gardening and truly he does garden through the four seasons at his garden on the coast of Maine.

I do have a portable cold frame and used it for many years in the spring to harden off seedlings in the spring.  But by the time fall comes, I am about ready to be done with gardening and to move on to other things–although I have such an extensive collection of houseplants, I’m never really “done” with gardening.

Cold frames can help with fall crops of vegetables and late harvests of vegetables.  There are many varieties on the market–too many to discuss in this post.  If you’re serious about wanting to extend your season, look into Eliot Coleman’s book–it’s about the best resource I know.