Gardening projects to help get you through the winter

You may think that you do not have the required space to enjoy indoor gardening but look around. Is there space in a spare bedroom for a light garden or at least room to put a table in front of a south- or west-facing window? Are there a few unoccupied windowsills? Is there space in the basement to establish a gardening centre which might include lights and all the equipment that goes with gardening?

What are some of the things that gardeners can do indoors during the winter besides just looking after the plants on hand? Yes, plants must be groomed, checked for insect pests, watered, and rotated in and out of low- and higher-light positions, but there are also what I call “projects” that can provide even more gardening pleasure.

One such project is to look ahead to upcoming outdoor gardening and produce plants that can be used outside. For this, my collection of succulents receives my attention. I bring my succulents in for the winter and as the season progresses, I continually take slips and cuttings from the parent plants. As these cuttings root and become good-size plants they also will yield cuttings and before long I have several large trays of small succulents that will be just the right size to use in planters outdoors in the summer. I use shallow trays (the large plastic trays used by greenhouses to hold packs of plants work well) and plant the cuttings close together to use the available space as efficiently as possible, putting them under the lights of the light garden.

I overwinter some coleus as well — particularly an old heritage variety that is no longer available commercially — continually taking slips and planting them in packs and trays. The old parent plants can be discarded when they lose their vigour from having been cut back again and again. Coleus are fast growing so it isn’t long until the new plants created from the slips become the parent plants from which new cuttings are taken. These plants can also be used to create novel little planters for display in the home. An attractive ceramic container with a few small coleus plants in it makes a nice centrepiece. Adding a couple of decorative objects creates an even more interesting display.

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I overwinter many plants for outdoor use and watch the calendar to determine when I should cut these plants back in order to have them just the right size when spring arrives. I usually cut back geraniums in late February. I hate to cut off all the bloom, but if the plants are left alone they will be too big and leggy and if they are cut back much later than this, they will take a long time to regrow and bloom will be late once they are put outside.

Another interesting project is to try to propagate plants that are either difficult to propagate or that take a long time to do so. Light levels, temperature, and humidity and moisture levels in the soil can be manipulated to get the ideal conditions for cuttings. I am currently trying to propagate dipladenia (with no success so far!), some of my scented geraniums, iresine, and polka-dot plant.

I also busy myself at creating various plant groupings and arrangements in the living areas to change the look of the interior landscape.

Planning my 2019 summer garden is also something I do at this time of year which also includes ordering seeds, and in a very few weeks I will plant some of the seeds that take a long time to develop.

Hopefully you are able to do some gardening this winter. Spring is still a long way off so we have to keep our green thumbs busy!

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