Before You Bring Plants into Your Greenhouse

By: Kalum Nestor

Cooler evenings and shorter daysóeverything points to summerís end. Itís time to move plants indoors. Here are a few things to consider before you do.

Realistically assess your indoor space. Whether you plan to begin spring seedlings or grow winter crops, remember to allow room for these activities. Most plants you move in grow larger over the winter, not smaller, so factor this in.

Examine your candidates. To justify the valuable space theyíll occupy, these plants should be of value to you. Are they healthy? Are they likely to stay within bounds for several months? Are they difficult to replace? Of course, winter-blooming plants make a special claim to indoor space.

Check for signs of insects. Some are difficult to detect with the unaided eye, but plants themselves often signal when something is wrong. Are the plantís leaves unusually pale, puckered or spotted? Aphids--probably the biggest problem in greenhouse settings-- are large enough to see, but very clever about locating themselves. Check under leaves, particularly young ones, and at the tips of growing stems; often these tiny insects are colored to match their host plant.

If you find whitefly, itís probably best to discard the plant. Donít despair if you locate aphids, however. Try to dislocate the majority with a strong spray of water. Next, apply a spray of horticultural oil or soap-- carefully following the manufacturerís directions. Applying one of these as insurance before you move plants indoors can be a wise idea. If there is an infestation, try to make at least two applications before the move. Itís much easier to control pest problems before plants move inside.

Most plants benefit from occasional pruning. Particularly at this time of year, pruning makes a great deal of sense. Cutting them back makes plants smaller, which helps conserve space. Pruning also reveals insects clustered in the plantís interior, and then allows easier access for treatment. It generally results in vigorous new growth, increasing the plantís overall attractiveness too. Donít prune winter-blooming plants at this time of year, or you might inadvertently remove flower buds.

Investigate what growing conditions are best for the plants youíve chosen. Many actually prefer cool temperatures with bright light. Isnít it wonderful that you have a greenhouse!

Alice McGowan and her husband, Brian, are the authors of ďBulbs in the Basement, Geraniums on the Windowsill,Ē a book about keeping tender perennial plants. For more information about her book and other writing, see

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