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Gardening Tips: Saving tender plants

It was a beautiful day as I write this article, but it is September and we know our frost-free days are numbered.

It was a beautiful day as I write this article, but it is September and we know our frost-free days are numbered.

If you hope to save any of the tender plants that you have nurtured all summer, be sure to get them indoors before that first frost hits!

Many of the plants that you grew outside for the summer can be enjoyed inside throughout the winter.

My mother always collected her geraniums and begonias, even some impatiens and coleus so that she had some plants blooming on her windowsill all winter.

These days there are so many more plant varieties that you can over-winter indoors.

Not only do you get the benefit of the winter blooms, but also, with a bit of extra work, you can use some of the plants outdoors the next spring.

There are many tropical plants you may have tried this season that are worth over-wintering indoors: Dipledinia, Passionflower, succulents and hibiscus are a few examples.

These tender plants will not tolerate any frost.

Be sure to pull them indoors before temperatures dip too low.

You may also try bringing some tender herbs indoors for the winter.

Not all types will survive the entire winter indoors, but you can enjoy them for as long as they last.

Rosemary, basil and parsley are a few you might try. (Parsley is actually a biennial, so it will return a second season if left in the garden. However, it is often bitter the second year, so is often treated as an annual.)

When bring any plant inside, follow these steps to ensure you do not bring pest or disease into the house:

1. Carefully inspect all plants you are considering bringing indoors. Discard those that are diseased or infested with bugs.

2. If you are bringing plants in, pot and all, follow these steps: slide the plant out of the pot, carefully rinse as much of the soil off the roots as possible, scrub the container well and replant with fresh indoor potting soil. Water the plant with a transplanting fertilizer to settle the roots in.

3. If plants are too large to bring in, take numerous cutting and root those to start new plants.

4. Give all foliage a shower with a solution of 1 part anti-bacterial dish soap mixed with 20 parts water and a small amount of ammonia.

5. Keep all plants in a separate room from your established houseplants. Keep an eye on them for several weeks until you are sure you have not brought any problems indoors.

6. Once they are ready to be placed for the winter, be sure to put them in an area that gets the correct light. Herbs and most flowering plants need lots of light. Plants the thrived outdoors in the shade will be happier in an east window.

Tender summer bulbs are another group of plants that need to be taken indoors to be stored for the winter.

Gladiola, dahlia, tuberous begonia and canna lily are a few examples.

Once the first frost has knocked back the foliage, dig up the bulb or tuber.

Shake off all excess dirt, cut back the foliage so that only a few inches of stock remains and set them out to air-dry for a few days. (Donít leave them out overnight if frost is predicted.)

Once the surface of the bulb is dry, store them in a paper bag or cardboard box surrounded by dry sand or peat moss and place them in a root cellar or cold room.

You need a cool, dark, dry space that doesnít freeze and stays at about 40 degrees F.

Check the bulbs a few times during the winter to ensure they are not rotting or withering up.

There is a bit of work involved when you bring plants in for the winter, however, the rewards far outweigh the effort!