The cuttings and tropical plants I want to save are all tucked into the greenhouse for winter. The cuttings will root and continue to grow until they lose the light. After the winter solstice, the plants will patiently wait as the days lengthen to grow again. It’s a cool process to watch each year.
I just have to keep everyone alive until spring.
Temperatures were way above normal until a few days ago.
Large thunderstorms swept through our region, and a cold north wind barreled into the state. However, daytime temperatures are still in the 50s. Nighttime temps have been all over the place. The wind is howling again today.
In the greenhouse though, it is warm and dry. With such warm weather, my biggest concern is keeping all of the cuttings well-watered. It’s a job for sure.
Have you ever dreamed of having a greenhouse? I’m told I don’t write enough details about my greenhouse so I’m going to try to explain more about it. If you have other questions, pose them in the comments below.
We heat the greenhouse with two different methods. We use both electric heating and propane. I don’t have the propane hooked up yet because we haven’t needed it. The electric heater can keep the greenhouse at 45°F and above all by itself. We use propane heat as a backup. We have two 100-pound bottles of propane we refill in town almost every month. If the weather is colder, we may have to go more often. If the winter is mild, we may only use one bottle all season.
You could also have propane delivered, or if you’re lucky enough to have natural gas, simply have a line installed for your greenhouse. I don’t have that option because we live so far out in the country.
In Oklahoma, you will not be able to overwinter plants without supplemental heat.
Also, no matter what you do to your greenhouse–outside of installing air conditioning–you will not be able to stand being in it in summer. You can use shade cloth to extend your season by a couple of weeks. I’ve never done this. I just get the plants out of the greenhouse in plenty of time.
Ventilation for the greenhouse is provided by the ceiling vents and the side vents. The system is charged through solar panels on top of the greenhouse, but we also have backup batteries for cloudy days. During this hot weather, I also used a box fan in front of the open door to provide more ventilation and cooling during the day. At night, I closed the door and shut off the fan.
This year, Bill installed an automatic screen door closer so the door shuts all by itself. In the past, I had to use a brick to hold the door open for when I’m taking in plants. The screen door closer has a washer that helps the door stay open. It is adjustable.
We also installed it because a couple of times the door didn’t get closed properly, and the wind blew it open during a storm. One year, I lost all of my plants. The door latch must be checked every year to make sure it latches properly.
The first year I had water in five-gallon buckets which I refilled by going up the hill to our well. We have an outdoor, frost-proof faucet on the main well. After that very cold and icy winter, Bill and I asked a friend of ours to bore a waterline beneath the driveway from the well and beneath the greenhouse floor. So, I now have a frost-proof faucet inside my greenhouse. It is the second-best thing we have ever done.
Speaking of floors, my greenhouse has a brick floor because I wanted an old-fashioned, British type of look, and I needed a floor with drainage. Some people use poured concrete floors with a drain. I love my brick floor. I love how warm and organic it looks.
Keeping plants happy inside the greenhouse is a lot of work.
Tropical plants perform pretty well once I bring them inside and repot them. Usually, they’ve outgrown their space in their pots during their summer outside. I also use the greenhouse to store plants I haven’t had time to plant in the fall like daylilies in pots. Sometimes, I can’t tell where I have space in the garden until we get a freeze. In the past, I’ve overwintered daylilies and dahlias in containers. I place these pots under the tables because I only want the plants to overwinter. I’m not trying to grow them larger.
There are other ways to overwinter dahlias, but most of the time, I just leave the tubers in the ground. By the way, I wasn’t happy with my dahlias’ performance this year, and I won’t be overwintering them. If they live, they live. If they don’t, c’est la vie.
Plant cuttings can be complicated. If you’d like to learn more about taking cuttings, here you go. You need to keep cuttings watered well enough to give them time to put down roots. Fungus gnats can also be a real problem if you overwater. I use gravel (chicken grit) to top off my containers to cut down on the fungus gnats. It also seems to pull away moisture from the cuttings’ stems which keeps them from dying. I don’t have any science to back any of this up. They’re just my personal observations.
Unfortunately, greenhouses provide perfect incubation conditions for a variety of insects.
By the middle of winter, I always have some insect pressure in the greenhouse. My most difficult ones are the fungus gnats, along with mealybugs and citrus scale. I’ve used horticultural oil like neem on mealybugs, and scale. To be effective you have to catch insects early. Scale is very complicated to treat. Don’t wait too long to spray. You can also use some insecticidal soaps on some insects, and large-scale greenhouse operations use systemic insecticides. I’m not willing to do that. Like everything in the garden, the most important thing is to be out there in the greenhouse often to stop problems before they start. Also, the cleaner the greenhouse is at the beginning of the season helps too.
If you re-use plastic pots make sure you dip them in bleach water before potting up cuttings to stop a lot of problems.
I linked to a couple of informational websites about insects and such above.
I hope all of this is helpful if you want your own little ark in the garden. Like I wrote above, ask me any questions you think of, and I’ll try to answer them.
In other news, our latest Gardenangelists podcast episode, Happy Halloween with “Grave” Gardening Topics, is up. If you click on the link here, it will take you to the show notes with links. Carol Michel and I post a new episode each week on Wednesdays. Have a splendid and spooky holiday!