over-wintering annuals

carole6April 23, 2006

Altho I'm not new to growing flowers,I always thought annual ment exactly that. So,I'm buying new every year.Well,last fall, I brought in a petunia & a Gazania.(Gazanias are not cheap around here).Surprise--they survived. The petunia is still spindly, but it has a bud.The Gazania is blooming. Actually, it had several buds over winter, but I plucked them off, thinking the plant would then put all its 'energy' into producing a healthier, bigger plant.It looks fine now.Anyone else in colder climates do this? Does it work with other plants?

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I overwintered a lot of annuals this year. Got a small greenhouse in November and planned on this being my "experimental" year ... Ha! Anyway, started out by tossing all my containers of annuals in there, along with my cooking herbs (potted up) and a few perennials that didn't get planted in the ground. Well, everything did great!

In the containers: geranium (pelargonium), bacopa, petunia, lamium, dichondra, dusty miller, sweet potato vine. I took cuttings of some and rooted them. Without supplemental lighting they grew vigorously all winter, the first four blooming well (geraniums at times with six full flower heads apiece), dichondra developing its inconspicuous blooms in March and the dusty miller about to flower now.

I must admit that I never had this degree of success overwintering geraniums in the house, or growing herbs on the windowsill. If one has the space, though, and perhaps better light, what's there to lose by trying? I expect that these plants will eventually tire and give up, but I haven't run into that situation yet.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 10:00PM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

Tell us more about your greenhouse. How big? The cost? Did you build it yourself? I would love a greenhouse or glasshouse. My sister had one but she moved and it stayed with the old house.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 9:25AM
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Oh, you don't really want to get me started, do you?

It's a small one - the 6x8 Harbor Freight model. I was planning something bigger, but reading the "Greenhouses & Garden Structures" forum, noticed this one seemed to have a sizeable and loyal following (as well as a few detractors who didn't consider it a "real" greenhouse) and I thought it would be a good intro ... especially at $329.00 (Sometimes on sale for $299, and some lucky folks had their 20% off coupons so got it for $239!)

Not one of the soft-sided portable models, it has an aluminum frame, one sliding door, one roof vent, 4mm twinwall polycarbonate glazing. We (my son, mostly - I helped) assembled it in one day, placing it on a foundation of treated 2x10's for a little more height. We bought and built it in November '05. All told, I probably spent a total of about $700-$800 if you add the cost of the lumber, gravel, circulation fan, heater, automatic vent opener, insulation (weatherstripping, foam board and solar pool cover) benches and sundry things like extra T-bolts and some clamps for attaching things inside. To me it has been worth twice that much. It's been a delightful retreat throughout the winter, whether pursuing plant-related activities or just sitting in the nurturing environment, surrounded by lush foliage and blooms in the middle of winter, with a good book and cup of tea or coffee. Space constraints notwithstanding, I made sure to leave room for a chair - it's just an old white resin patio chair we had on hand, but it's sufficient ... and apparently comfortable enough - my husband went missing a few times and was finally found out there reading. Each of my four children (ages 16-26) found reasons to spend time out there too, with me or alone.

This first winter was going to be my experimental year; I was planning to keep it just above freezing and use as little auxiliary heat as possible. I stocked it with water-filled milk jugs and soda bottles for thermal mass, insulated the north wall with 1" foam insulation, and wrapped the whole thing in a clear solar pool cover. The annuals did so well, I moved a few houseplants out there, then some more; picked up a few new plants, then got adventurous at the open house held by a local orchid grower. Harvesting fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes was such a treat, I planted lettuce and snow peas. Followed some advice from one of the rose forums and stuck the canes from the winter pruning into pots of damp sand and set them on the floor ... now have five new rosebushes. Started many other cuttings out there ... I'll be spending less at the nurseries this year. Nice to have a place to get the forced bulbs going and ready for display. I did some wintersowing, but also started things in flats (vegetables, perennials and annuals), moving them from the house to the greenhouse as soon as they'd germinated.

Now to figure out what to do with all this stuff!

Honestly, I cannot recommend a greenhouse highly enough. I don't ever want to be without one again ... I think I'd give up my dishwasher before I'd give up my greenhouse.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 9:34PM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

Diane, thanks for all the info. I am truly inspired. I will definitely look into getting one of these this fall. My two garden "dreams" are a greenhouse and a water feature. And I love the way described your husband "disappearing". I, too, wish to disappear with my plants!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 8:56AM
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You won't regret the water feature either, if you do it right. We designed and built a small (about 12x14') water garden/koi pond with waterfall in August of '04. I've been landscaping around it and made a little bog at one end; my son added underwater and above-ground lights for pond and the surrounding gardens, a little up-lighting for the trees. It's delightful (the most-used spot in the yard) and is fairly low maintenance. I didn't plan this, but the pond and greenhouse are situated such that at the right time of afternoon, the sunlight reflected from the water dances on the greenhouse walls ... looks pretty neat from inside the GH.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 10:41AM
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