Thursday, May 1, 2008

Overwintering. . .

. . . and looking forward to getting them all back out in the fresh air and sunshine! Last fall I bought a nice sodium grow light fixture and installed it in our basement. I've used it for overwintering, and for propagating.

Although it wasn't cheap, it wasn't as costly as building and heating a greenhouse, and over time I believe the light will pay for itself. I've overwintered plants in sunny windows before, but last year there were just too many for that, and I was concerned for our hardwood floors with all the watering I'd have to do.

With my new toy, I've also got a great spot for starting seeds. I'm having fun with that too. This spring I've started columbine, candytuft, purple coneflowers, johnny jump-ups, and cilantro. Next year I'll start some impatiens instead of buying flats. I was never a big fan of impatiens until living here. With all this shade, they add some needed color. I couldn't find the colors I wanted in seeds this year, and it was too late to mail order them by the time I decided I wanted to start seedlings.

A few weeks ago I took some small divisions from a few things, particularly heucheras, , put them in pots, and put them under the light to give them a jump start on spring. By the time I'm ready to plant them outside, they should have enough roots to keep them anchored in the ground so the evil yard monkeys can't dig them up and carry them away (I hope!) I also started my caladiums to give them a head start on summer. It will still be several weeks before they go outside.

I have a few tropicals down there besides the caladiums - 2 kinds of elephant ears, two variegated angel's trumpets (one is a cutting from the first,) a gardenia, a datura, and a hibiscus. There are a couple of variegated abutilons (orange flowers,) fuschias, begonias, and a number of things I started from cuttings.

I love going down there to putter: water, preen, start cuttings, prune, fertilize, and even deadhead a little. Having my new grow light has enabled me to satisfy my gardening jones even while I'VE been overwintering. I'm now looking forward to getting everything outside in the next next few weeks.


  1. This is a great way to spend the winter! I tried to start a few seedlings this year with a makeshift light in my basement. But yours looks so effective and brightens such a big area--I'm going to have to look into this next year. Besides, with all your starts from seeds, over time the light will probably pay for itself, won't it? Looking forward to seeing your new varieties of impatiens.

  2. That looks great. I would love to have one of those light but finding a way to hook it up is just intimidating. Not that there is much of a winter here but I still like to start many many seeds. Can't wait to see all your seedlings out and growing in your garden.

  3. You know, I always thought weeding and deadheading of flowers would be a chore. But I find that it is a mindless diversion which is sort of meditative in nature. I have mostly gravel and flagstone, so plucking the errant weed is not a big deal. And I find deadheading relaxing. Weird, huh? I guess it's just being able to be in the garden or around plants at all that we like.

  4. Looks like a real fine 'toy' to me..I'd like to have one but if I put things in my basement, the cats will think I created individualized litter boxes for them....

  5. Rose, I really enjoyed having my basement 'garden' this winter! I do think the light will pay for itself over time.

    Priscilla, it was easy to set it up here because the basement is unfinished I just screwed hooks into the beams and used an optional kit that allows the light to be raised and lowered as needed.

    Brenda, I always enjoyed the freedom from gardening chores during the winter, but this year I found I really enjoyed puttering around with the plants in the basement. It was more fun than work.

    Jodi, I remember those days! My cats often used my house plants as litter boxes! My daughter wanted our cats when I got remarried, and since my husband is definitely NOT a cat person, I've been content with just George, my dog. After years of having a rather large menagerie of pets, I don't mind having the freedom from responsibility of caring for so many pets, especially when it comes time for traveling!

  6. I don't know if I could do this--maybe if I had nothing else to do. It looks like a TON of work to me, and of course I don't have the space anyway. That said, it would be nice to be working somehow with plants that will make it outside eventually, vs. house plants only (I don't much like house plants anyway--too office-like).

  7. Benjamin, I thought that too. I've always enjoyed freedom from gardening chores in the winter. I found, surprisingly, that overwintering my stuff in the basement wasn't really a lot of work. Things slowed down in their growth alot. While the light is great, it's not the same as sunshine. Plus, I didn't fertilize anything until just recently. Most things were cut back before going in the basement, which made the water requirement much lower (along with no wind and no hot sun.) It wasn't too much trouble, and I enjoyed it. I think I'd like living in a climate where I could garden year 'round.


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