Scrambling because of the cold

Friday evening it was forecast to get down to 25ºF (it did reach that) so before it got dark I had a lot of work to do. Although our normal low for this time of year is about 40ºF, our temperatures are not steady. A dip down to 25 isn't record setting, nor is it common. It does mean that I had to figure out how to protect a lot of plants a few weeks earlier than I should have.

The quick solution was to just put them all into the garage for the night, as it will warm up again in a couple of days.


If you live where temperatures are pretty consistent yet you still have cold winters, it seems that most gardening info is written for you -- temps stay pretty even and rise and fall in predictable ways. This time of year for instance, some tropicals will go dormant when the temps get around 40º F, then you cut off the leaves and bring the bulb, rootball, or whole leafless plant inside and store it somewhere where it won't get below freezing. Some Elephant Ears and banana plants are examples of plants with which you can do this. When the temps go from above 40º F to way below freezing in just a day or two, then back up again, there's no info on what you should do. Will the tropicals survive this? I don't know.

I didn't want to take any chances, so anything questionable went into the garage for a night or two. First I cleared some space, which was difficult since I never really cleaned out everything from when the kittens were living in here. This looks like enough space, I hope:

I started with several small bamboo pots:

The bamboo would probably be fine outside, but the pots are small and I don't know how quickly they will freeze at 25ºF. Better safe than sorry.

Colocasia gigantea and one of my banana plants (which is already looking a little shabby after some cold nights and being knocked over by a windstorm):

My maypop vines that I just got in September:

Although they are usually root cold-hardy here, they're just starting to take off, so I want to give them as much growing time as possible this year. See the new "suckers" that are emerging?

I'll be dragging all of these pots out again after a couple of days, then in a few weeks I'll give them their permanent winter treatment, which may mean going into my not-yet-built greenhouse, going dormant and stored in the garage, etc.

The 'King Tut' papyrus, which I want to try and overwinter inside under lights:

I didn't have much luck overwintering this a couple of years ago, but I'm willing to try again.

Another banana:

and an Ensete (in the banana family, but not a true banana):

Good thing I've got a nice big dolly, because some of these pots are heavy!

The three large Elephant Ears (Colocasia esculenta) for instance -- remember when I rolled these out in the spring?. Before moving these I'll remove most of the leaves:

Then into the garage they go with the others, and I'm running out of room. Luckily there are just a few small pots left, and I can squeeze them in anywhere.

There are many other plants in here that I didn't mention specifically: plumeria, firesticks, more bamboo, several houseplants that have been outside for the summer -- too many plants!

(Besides moving plants into the garage I also took some cuttings, dug up a few plants, and mulched some others with leaves. By the time I finished it was way too dark for photos.)

I think I'll be moving them all outside again today (Sunday) -- that will be "fun". Maybe this will motivate me to get my winter plans figured out...

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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (November 7, 2010 at 3:27 PM)  

Excellent post, Alan! While I don't have to protect quite as many plants as you do, I still have to figure out a strategy for winter for some of my succulents and tropicals. I wish I had room for a greenhouse; that would solve all these issues.

Alan  – (November 8, 2010 at 7:07 AM)  

You'd think so, but when I built my temporary greenhouse last year, the first thing I thought when I started moving plants in was
"I wish I had a bigger greenhouse". I somehow think that unless you have a *huge* one, you always want more space.

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