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Westchester: Keep Outdoor Plants Thriving Indoors

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - The warm weather almost has run out of steam and winter is just around the corner, but it does not mean your home has to be bereft of some of the plants, herbs and even vegetables you had on your deck and in your backyard this summer.

For starters – and not a moment too soon: “Any houseplants you had outdoors for the summer need to come inside,” said Regina Regina Campfield, University of Connecticut’s master gardener program coordinator for the Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens in Stamford, Conn. “First, give them a good and thorough watering as well as a gentle but thorough spray over all the leaves to knock off any insects that might be there,” she added.

The sooner you can bring your plants indoors, the better, as plants are sensitive to dry heat. Home heating systems, said Campfield, can be extremely drying to houseplants, which should be positioned away from vents and radiators, if possible.

To make things easier on your flowers, “The more natural light the better, said master gardener Maggie Pichura, environmental educator at Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining. “South and southwest-facing windows are great because the winter sun is lower in the sky and arches closer to the south.” Take advantage of it if you have it, she added.

Some annual flowers can thrive indoors, Campfield said. “And you can take cuttings of many, such as begonias and specialty cultivars so they can grow inside.” And, “tender” flora, as Campfield refers to them, such as fig, lemon and orange trees can come inside for the winter, although, she said, some people leave fig trees outdoors, wrapped and protected from the elements.

Some herbs fare better than others during the winter months – even indoors. “Most herbs are originally from the Mediterranean and they like heat. It is hard to re-create that in the average home,” Campfield said. However a warm sunny window might coax your basil into continuing to produce its lush and tasty leaves for a few months. And in order to keep them producing, Pichura suggests pinching them back regularly when they get “leggy, as they reach for the sunlight.”

As for fresh vegetables indoors, growing some is less complicated than others. “Lettuce is easy to grow with just a good bit of light,” said Campfield, but in general she said vegetables need six to eight hours of sunlight daily. “Some people are growing hydroponically in special containers or systems – called window farms – that can be installed across bright windows, which are most likely supplemented with grow lights.

Complicating matters, said Pichura, is that “vegetables are mostly annual plants, which means they germinate, grow, flower, seed and die in one growing season.”

If those steps are just too much for you to take, then remember, the indoor spring growing season in Westchester County begins in less than six months.

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