Sunday, November 20, 2016

Indoors… Definitely indoors tonight

As I write this, the lovely 65 degree weather of the past two days disappeared in the gusts of wind which are now pelting my house with snow.  Yes, in the span of 16 hours or so, we lost 30 degrees and gained wind gusts in excess of 30 mph with white precipitation.

First snow of the season came with the assortment package of big fluffy flakes, sleet, pellets and tiny flakes.

I am so grateful that I was able to complete the majority of the outdoor tasks in the last two days and can safely and comfortably sit inside my lovely warm home without a huge list of outside to-dos.  My remaining task is to bury my hardy perennials in pots in the plant graveyard so they don’t freeze.  My how-to this month will briefly explore the why and the simple how to preserve potted perennials over winter.

My “graveyard” earlier this spring with a group of plants waiting in the wings.

Perennial plants overwintering in pots have to deal with colder temperatures on their roots and thus are more susceptible to cold damage.  The ground is a wonderful insulator and protects the roots from the harsher temperatures of the air as well as the wind effects on the air temperature.  I have learned that “planting” a plant in a pot in the ground keeps them happy.  Simply dig a hole the depth of the pot, plop said pot into hole and pack the soil, or sand in my case, back in around the pot and that’s it.  A load of leaves on top adds an extra blanket.  If you are not able to provide winter protection for a planted pot, the suggestion is to make sure the plant in question is hardy to several zones colder than the one you dwell in.

There are many reasons why a plant has to overwinter in a pot rather than in the ground.  Most of my reasons deal with the fact that I don’t have a place to put them yet.  A plant bought at the end of season on clearance, a plant that was removed and yet to be replanted, plants waiting to go in a designated spot but that spot isn’t open yet, gifted plants that need to be worked in and finally, my cuttings that are growing up in a pot before being transplanted into their permanent location are all inhabitants of this spot.

My pots waiting to go to bed.
The two big hostas in the foreground were taken out in the new path project on the east side terrace.

Sir T calls this area in my yard the plant graveyard because sadly, there are some plants that have languished years there and yes, some have died waiting for a home.  It isn’t a special spot, just some open sand in the former volleyball court, but it has been very helpful in holding plants over that I just haven’t gotten to yet or are still growing.

So while my plants are shivering outside waiting to get tucked into bed for the winter, I’ll take you on a tour of the inside of our house and the changes we did this past summer of no gardening.  Checking back on the blogs that I wrote earlier this year, I showed you the guest bedroom completion and the start of the demolition of the big room here.

I am so excited for the completion of my indoor garden space.  The process to unstick the adhesive was a long and laborious one mainly fought by Sir T who gallantly sat and scraped with a 4 inch blade and a heat gun… for hours every week for almost 3 months.  FINALLY, his labor of love gifted me with a clean cement floor to paint.

Mr. Right scraping away at the adhesive.
Bare concrete!  Now onto etching and cleaning!

Of course the painting was my job and I have no proof that I actually did it.  The usual story when the photographer is working.  While the scraping process was slowly progressing, Sir T took a break to make my potting bench.  I did have some specific requests for the bench but no absolute specifications.  Our final product went through several revisions before we had a workable and buildable design.  I knew that I wanted a large flat surface.  I tend to spread out and run out of space quite quickly.  I also knew that I wanted my bench to be nice enough to use for other purposes such as crafting, food display and eating.

The height of the bench needed to be comfortable for me to stand and pot up seedlings, the main purpose of the garden area, as well as transplant my house plants.  Under the bench, I desired to store soil in bins that were easily accessible and movable.  And finally it had to be pretty.  No small list of course.

My indoor potting bench in progress.
The shelves were sealed by my Dad for us and the wheels came from a furniture dolly bought on sale.

Sir T came through with a little help from my Dad and made me a beautiful bench.  I really love it.  In fact, I used it today to repot a rosemary plant for a visiting friend.  She lives in a camper and travels around the country with her family.  The plant was originally in a terra cotta pot and her husband mentioned that he would prefer her to move it to a less fragile pot for safety due to the bumpy nature of travel.  Ah ha, just a moment please!

Fetching a plastic faux terra cotta pot a couple of sizes up from its currently root bound pot, I whisked the rosemary and its new home off to the basement and reemerged minutes later with a nicely repotted plant.   No cold garage floor, crouching on the floor or digging through freezing soil on the kitchen table top needed.  It was WONDERFUL!!

My lovely bench.  I REALLY like it!  Top shelf of small bins for tools and pots.  Bottom shelf for bins of different kinds of potting soil.  The large brush is great for cleaning the soil and debris off into my designated compost bin.

The large room in the basement has only two fixed light sources, a half panel of 2 florescent bulbs on the north and south end of the room.  Not nearly enough light for my taste even during daylight hours.  Honestly, most of my working hours will probably be during the dark or doing projects that require more light.  Sir T solved this issue by installing lights above my potting bench.  He did not want to wire in lights above my bench but was rather more interested in something that could plug in.  A trip to Menards and touring around the lighting department with a very helpful and creative employee helped us settle on this configuration.

These plug in lights are called clamp lights and originally had a large clamp at the base of the reflector and were found in the work light section of the lighting department.  Sir T removed the clamps and arranged all the cords above the ceiling tiles, I peeled off the stickers and voila, industrial chic lighting for under $20 total.  Each light has its own on/off switch and are situated so that I do not have to work in my own shadow.

My beautiful new bench, new lighting, new floor and plants brought in for winter.
My avocado tree on the left and my papyrus plant on the right of the slider.
On the other side of the room I have my new shelves and light rack.

The shelving we bought holds more soil, trays, tools and my seed cabinet.  We upgraded from 4 plastic shoe box sized totes to the dark 3 drawer cabinet on the bottom shelf which I outfitted with center dividers.  All the seeds are sealed in bags and alphabetized.  Behind the white light shelf is a reflective “space” blanket to help keep as much light on the seedlings as possible.  The floor is a breeze to keep clean and it is easy to move the shelves on their wheels around.

A view down the hall to the bedroom.  The hallway wall got a fresh coat of paint as well.

I am so very pleased with my new space and am excited to put it to work.  I love the fact I have soil, space and pots at my fingertips for whenever I need them.  No more dragging bags of frozen soil in from the garage to thaw inside before repotting a plant on the kitchen table.   No more hunched over sitting on the floor transplanting hundreds of babies from the seed starting tray to cells.  No more mess in the kitchen.  Wonderful.

So as I sit here listening to the wind howl outside, I am smiling and looking forward to growing green things inside in my new space.  Blessed.  I am blessed.

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