Cold weather preparations are in full swing in my greenhouses.
Now that it’s autumn, everyone at the farm is busy moving all the tropical plants back into the heated greenhouses where they will spend the cold, winter months. Plants that spent the summer at Skylands, my home in Maine, or at Lily Pond in East Hampton, were all brought back to Bedford for storage. Most of them are kept in one of two hoop houses designated specifically for these warm weather specimens. They are all thriving, and have grown quite well in the last year - some grew too big for their pots, and needed to be removed, trimmed, and repotted into slightly larger containers. It’s a tedious process to put all these container plants away, but a very important one that keeps all my plants healthy.
How do you prepare your plants for the cold season? Let me know in the comments section below. Enjoy these photos. Remember, you can still purchase Martha Stewart American Made tickets for October 22nd in New York City - just click on the highlighted link.
Moving these tropical specimens is a tedious task – some of the larger potted plants weigh hundreds of pounds. My outdoor grounds crew foreman, Chhiring Sherpa, uses a John Deere tractor to move them.
Wilmer and Phurba unload a plant using a giant hand truck. In past years, I’ve kept most of my citrus collection in this greenhouse next to my Equipment Barn. Now that many of them have moved next door to the vegetable greenhouse, there’s more room here, where I also keep agaves, a collection of alocasia and colocasia and other tropical specimens.
To carry some of the other heavier plants, Dawa and Chhewang use this handy PotLifter. It comes from Gardener’s Supply Company and can carry pots up to 200-pounds. It’s easy to use – just place the pot within the support straps. http://www.gardeners.com
These very durable nylon straps grip securely onto the pot and make it much easier to carry.
My head gardener, Ryan McCallister, oversees the moving of all these plants. Here, he guides the crew as they rotate the large citrus tree, so it does not touch any of the other specimens, or the ceiling. This is Citrus sinensis ‘Blood Orange’ – I really love the fruits of this tree because its distinctive tasting flesh is purple rather than orange.
These plants actually spend about seven months of the year in this heated shelter – but they definitely thrive.
One of the benefits of using these hoop houses is that the Kawasaki and even the tractor can just roll in – this makes moving the plants much easier for the crew.
Agaves are so beautiful, but be sure to keep them in low traffic areas, as their spikes can be very painful. And always wear gloves and eye protection when dividing because the sap can burn.
This ‘Ponderosa’ citrus tree is usually the last pot to be stored in the hoop house before winter. I always keep it in the front just behind the doors when all my citrus plants are put inside.
All the pants will be very happy here during the cold winter months.
Meanwhile, Wilmer has the task of removing the giant tropical ferns from the decorative urns outside the stable. These tree ferns need to be placed in large plastic pots for winter storage.
Using a sharp knife, Wilmer trimmed the root ball, decreasing its size, so it fits in the plastic pot. He also cut through the bottom roots.
Wilmer added some Osmocote fertilizer to the soil. This is a slow-release fertilizer.
And the plant is placed in a container, where it will stay until spring.
The green foliage at the base is baby tears, a wonderful ground cover that looks great around the base of potted plants. It is now ready to go to the greenhouse.
Many of the tropical plants from Maine and East Hampton are returned here to my Bedford, New York farm because there is more room here to store and maintain them properly.
Moving such a large potted plant requires strength, care, and the right equipment. A moving blanket cushions the cement pot and an adjustable moving strap is tightened around it, securing the pot to the loader. This is an original “Watts Pot” made of limestone and concrete.
These plants are from the courtyard behind my kitchen. The most critical factor in moving houseplants is temperature. Avoid prolonged exposure to heat or cold, with temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit or higher than 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
I also love to display my tropical specimens behind my Summer House, on the terrace facing my sunken Boxwood and Ginkgo Garden. This is one of two agaves I planted in these handsome containers this summer.
Before each plant gets placed into the hoop house, it is examined, and if necessary, repotted. There were a lot of plants in line to repot.
This is the other heated hoop house where many of my tropical plants are moved to and kept safe from freezing temperatures. It is located near the chicken coops. It has manual roll-up curtains on both sides for ventilation purposes.
This greenhouse has three circulation fans. The crew makes sure no part of any plant is blocking the fans.
I have a large variety of special planters – antiques and reproductions, planters made of stone, lead, fiberglass and resin, and in a wide array of shapes and sizes.
The heater is checked a couple of times each day to make sure the temperature remains comfortably warm inside. Too cold, plants will freeze – Too hot, plants will rot.
The greenhouses were filled quickly. Look how organized and tidy it looks. The weather and schedule allowed the team time to make the greenhouses look great.
At the end of the week, the greenhouses were finally complete. Everything looks wonderful – thank you, crew!