Keep watering semi-hardy annuals (really mid-zone perennials) outdoors, as they will continue to delight over the next few weeks of cooler weather. Another option is to take cuttings from these plants (see details below)
It looks like a big shift in weather is coming, returning the prairies to seasonal temperatures, and perhaps most importantly our very delayed first frost is inevitable in the next week or two. With this reality in mind, there are a few chores worth attending to before the chill sets in.
Task # 1 - Move plants indoors if planning on wintering them inside
Normally we would say Labour Day weekend for bringing tropical or Mediterranean plants indoors for wintering, but the opportunity to leave them outside has been unusually compelling this year. The temperatures in the high 20's have clearly been good for these plants! However, the transition to indoors becomes much more stressful once plants are exposed to cool weather or frost... so we have reached the limit for leaving these plants outdoors.
The best practices for moving plants inside include: first showering them with forceful fresh water from the garden hose (to knock off soft-bodied insects that could be on the stems and leaves); trimming stem tips to stimulate new growth indoors; top dressing with quality compost like Sea Soil, or repotting if plants are rootbound (Sea Soil Container Complete is a wonderful peat-free and fully organic option that suits most plants). If there is concern about fungus gnats (the fruit-fly-like pests that fly up from the soil), you can water in 1/4 strength hydrogen peroxide followed by the application of Mosquito Dunks a day later. Finally, go slowly (if possible), first moving plants to a porch or sunroom then to their proper winter location indoors a few days to a week later; this gives them more time to adjust to the indoor conditions. Remember, it is normal for many plants to lose some leaves when settling into their indoor environment.
Task # 2 - Dig remaining potatoes or sweet potatoes
Cool weather and exposure to frost are bad for the storage potential of these crops, particularly if conditions become wet. Plus, it is far more comfortable digging in the dirt when it is mild and the soil is warm! Check back on our newsletter blog for tips on curing these root veggies.
Task # 3 - Take any cuttings you want to salvage from the garden
Recently we've been gifted a number of heirloom annuals from gardeners who every year take cuttings from their plants, preserving varieties that are no longer common in commercial trade. This is such an opportunity! It is very true that selections disappear from trade as new cultivars are introduced, leading to gardeners missing out on potentially cool plants.
The advantage of taking cuttings vs. wintering full-sized plants is just how much easier it is. The smaller plant pieces adjust to life indoors with relative ease, and many popular "annuals" root easily in water. Top picks for this project include geraniums, salvias, coleus, fuchsia, midnight candy and many types of snapdragons. The reason to get this done asap is similar to that described in task # 1: exposure to cold weather will make salvaging these plants indoors more challenging.
Originally posted on October 7, 2021