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Vermont Garden Journal: Protecting Your Tender Plants As The Seasons Change

Antony Kemp
After spending the summer on your deck or patio, it's time to transition those houseplants indoors.

The days are getting shorter and cooler and it's time to start protecting your tender plants. Whether it be a favorite rosemary, a houseplant you moved outdoors for summer or a tender perennial in the ground, there are different ways to protect those plants from the cold.

For tender herbs and flowers that won't survive outdoors even with protection, you have two choices. Either bring the whole container indoors or create rooted cuttings. For example, if you have a large rosemary, geranium or begonia plant, instead of trying to find a space for these beauties in your house, root stem cuttings to make smaller plants that are easier to manage. Cut off a six-inch long stem, remove the bottom leaves and dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder. Take a number of cuttings to insure success. Stick the cuttings in a two-to-four-inch diameter pot filled with moistened potting soil. Place in a warm room out of direct sunlight and in a few weeks they should start rooting.

For subtropical houseplants, like hibiscus, that spent the summer outdoors on a deck or patio, bring them in now. But don't do it all at once. Transition the houseplants by moving them into a shady spot for five days. Check for any hitch-hiking insects, such as aphids, mealybugs, scale and white flies and spray when outdoors with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Move the plants indoors into a sunny area quarantined from other houseplants to check for more bugs.

For tender or newly planted perennial flowers, such as lavender in the garden, don't apply protective mulches until late November. Mulching now just gives mice and voles a place to live in winter and a ready food supply.

Now for this week's tip: harvest sweet potatoes before a frost or if you see any signs of mice or vole damage on the roots. Cure the roots in a warm garage or shed for a few weeks then store in a cool basement.

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