Falling temperatures mean it’s time to adapt

Fuchsia Tom West. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Fuchsia Tom West. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

The recent sudden temperature change from upper 20s to the lower teens Celsius was hint enough for me to modify the treatment of certain plants.

It’s time to take an objective look at the garden and adapt to seasonal change.

Over the coming weeks there will be a transformation in our greenhouse as it changes from an edible crop growing and floral display unit into a plant storage area.

I’m certainly not anticipating frost in the next week or so, but cooler nights do demand that the greenhouse plant-watering regime of high summer, adjusted when September arrived, must now slow to a trickle.

This does not mean that we neglect a plant’s needs to the point of wilting, but rules out damping down the floor and splashing water about.

Shorter days, lower light levels and temperatures slow down plant growth as many go into a semi-dormant state. In such circumstances moulds develop. Easing back on water and encouraging air to circulate offers a better chance of survival.

Over the coming weeks there will be a transformation in our greenhouse as it changes from an edible crop growing and floral display unit into a plant storage area – a retreat for plants not tough enough to survive winter outdoors, but too precious to lose. Noah’s ark springs to mind.

This marks the beginning of a salvage operation that continues deep into autumn as we trawl the garden looking for candidates to save. It’s an exercise that focuses the mind because there is limited accommodation.

Late flowering chrysanthemums, presently developing happily outdoors in large pots, must have protection and space to show off their large blooms. The border previously occupied by a tomato crop is earmarked for them.

Staging that still supports collections of potted plants, such as fuchsias, streptocarpus and begonia rex, will soon groan under the weight of special border plants seeking winter refuge.

We prepare for this by completely emptying the greenhouse of all portable plants on a warm autumn day. Then the benches and glass can be cleaned in preparation.

All unnecessary growth is pruned from fuchsias, geraniums, etc, to save space and avoid fungal attack in store.

That’s when the decision-making begins, and for me it is based on which plants we like most and the potential for propagation.

For example, the variegated fuchsia Tom West is very decorative and there’s a display of 10 plants in the greenhouse at present. Earlier in the year there were 50, but we had two charitable coffee mornings to support. They were raised from two parent plants that overwintered in the greenhouse so that’s all we need keep this time.

We must find bench space for the early spray chrysanthemums presently growing outdoors and still producing blooms for vases. They will be lifted, pruned, and packed close together in boxes, before a topping-up with spent compost. Early next year they’ll offer stem cuttings.

Dianthus Pink Kisses was a success in taller containers, but at ground level was reduced to stumps by two grazing rabbits. They are still around so leaving these valued plants out over winter is not an option at present. That’s another box to find space for.