Friday, February 19, 2021

Indoor Plant Fun

By Ed Powers, Jefferson County Master Gardener

It has been an interesting 14 months. My wife and I have been quarantined this whole time. Like a lot of people we have been catching up on things we fell behind on. We spent our whole summer working on our outdoor gardens. Our flowering plant pots were highly successful, but our vegetable garden was eaten up by the wildlife in our area. We had the garden protected with double netting but the voles and mice got through it and had a feast. So this spring we are going to dig up and turn over our raised garden soil, and find a new protection for them.   

But our indoor plant gardens have been fun. We rely on background info from CSU factsheets and Garden Notes for information on how to take care of them. I can not say enough positive things about these resources. The types of plants we have can be very challenging. We have orchids, African violets, many types of  succulents and cacti. A desert rose, miniature ficus trees, small Japanese Red Maples, indoor geraniums, pothos, ivy, mother-in-law tongue, a small nursery that I start plants in, a small Japanese Black Pine that I am trying to bonsai, several Christmas cactus and a hanging bag full of outdoor plants that I brought in for the winter to see if they would make it.

Plants on steel shelves with only natural light.

Now you may ask how do we house and care for these plants? They are housed in our garage, turned into a sun room and workspace area. It has no heat except for heat coming through basement open areas such as doors or windows.  Our sunny areas face the southwest and some northerly exposure.  We have our stronger plants on steel shelving with some artificial light. We have also put bubble wrap on the windows for insulation while letting the sun light in. The temperature averages between 62 F and 67 F during the winter although when we get below 10 F outside that temperature can drop to 58 F.  

Bubble wrap on windows for insulation and light.

These steel-shelfed plants include all our trees, succulents, desert rose, Christmas cactus, mother-in-law tongue and Japanese Red Maples. They all seem to do well even when it is colder.  Our more sensitive plants are on a plant stand draped with a plastic curtain in back and bubble wrap in front, which can be lifted and thrown over the back of the stand on warm days. The bubble wrap is two sheets 18 inches wide with openings in middle and ends, allowing circulation in the stand. 

Orchids on first shelf of plant stand.

The stand has three shelves. When planting seed in early spring, I put them on the bottom shelf in trays. All shelves are lit with LED lighting. The top shelf holds the orchids, African violets, our small plant nursery and newly rooted trees, and is heated with a heat mat that is controlled by a thermostat.  The second shelf does not have a heat mat. It holds geraniums, pothos and ivy. The stand usually is 65 F to 70 F.  But on colder mornings it may drop to 61 F.

Plant nursery, African violets and newly started ficus trees on first shelf of plant stand. 

All in all it has been a fun time with our plants during this Pandemic and we hope to continue with our success when the Pandemic has passed.

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