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Sage Garden Blog

Getting ready for the indoor garden

Now that we have had some cooler nights... even light frost in parts of Manitoba, many gardeners are thinking about the transition to indoors. Here are a few ideas to help you organize for this next season:

Zones tell us a lot. The zone hardiness info that we often reference when thinking about perennials also helps identify the best plants to grow indoors through winter. As a general rule, evergreen plants from high zones (9 - 11) are the easiest to keep through winter, as they naturally want to grow year round in warm conditions. Lower zone plants (1 - 4) really need a significant cold period, and do best when planted into the outdoor garden for winter. Annuals (yes, that includes most types of basil) really do not transition indoors as houseplants, as they often require long daylight hours and finish their life cycle as they flower at then end of their first season. With this information in hand, it is much easier to succeed with bringing summer plants indoors. 

The easiest houseplants are typically plants that are naturally inclined to be evergreen year round, with a preference for warmer temperatures. Look for high zone plants such as this Philodendron when planning your indoor garden. 

It is worth keeping in mind that many plants sold as bedding plant annuals are in fact warm climate perennials, and not annual at all. Some examples include geraniums, iresene, some ferns, papyrus grass, coleus and many more. If the idea of keeping these through winter appeals to you, they can be fantastic candidates for wintering! 

Timing matters. Most plants that transfer well indoors do so with less fuss if they never experience cool temperatures. Our fall is characterized by lovely warm days mixed with increasingly cool nights; if our patio plants experience too much cool during overnights outdoors they will respond with stress (leaf drop, browning of leaves) when transferred to the warmer, dryer conditions of the indoor fall home. Now is the time to get your plants indoors, even if the cooler weather does not look like it is effecting them at all, at them moment. 

Several popular warm climate plants are not evergreen, and therefore their natural tendency is to go dormant for part of winter. Examples include fruiting figs, lemon verbena and desert rose. Don't worry if these plants lose their leaves... they just need a little downtime and will regrow when ready. Figs and lemon verbena are best left outdoors to experience light frost before coming inside, and succulents like desert rose prefer to have little to no water in winter, which will induce their dormancy. 

Figs in fruit
Fruiting figs need a period of dormancy to yield the next spring
Ornamental figs such as this Fiddle Leaf fig are evergreen, and behave as regular year round houseplants
Light makes all the difference. Some plants are definitely able to thrive in very low light indoors, such as Sansevieria (Mother in Law's Tongue), Haworthia and some types of Philodendrons. Others enjoy shade on the patio, but require a bright location once moved inside; some great examples include Allspice trees, Cuban Oregano and Monstera plants. But some plants we only thrive on long days and higher intensity lumens... thinking about basil and most herbs, as well as many, many succulents. Fortunately, cost effective full spectrum grow lights are a real option these days, and come in a huge array of styles to fit decor or practical indoor plant spaces. If there is one thing that will make your indoor garden better and more varied, it is definitely adding some grow lights! 
Many easy to use accessories  such as this light timer make setting up grow lights very low maintenance (lights are generally on 16 hrs. per day)
Inexpensive 36" connector cables allow you to daisy-chain up to eight to ten Sunblaster LED or T5 lights across multiple shelves, running off of a single plug
The Sunblaster Grow Light Garden is an elegant and easy set-up solution for anyone wanting to grow edibles all winter long (including those fickle summer herbs like basil) 

There is more to chat about when it comes to indoor gardening, and we'll for sure include additional articles in up-coming newsletters. But zones, timing and light are three foundations, so I hope this gets you well on your way. Some additional free resources on this topic can be found on our blog, the weekly Grow Guide podcast, our weekly Garden Club (starts September 15 for the fall season) and of course feel free to drop by the shop and chat with any of our staff. - DH

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