Bring The Outside In
As the air is turning cooler here in New England, I have been thinking about my plants and where I will put them this winter. Moving from an apartment with no outdoor space to a home with plenty of outside spaces for plants, I have not had to transition my plants from outside to inside. I was so happy to have my plants outside this summer—they grew like crazy and look so healthy, without my having to tend to them too much. We got a lot of rain here in Connecticut and the weather stayed pretty warm through most of October.
Now that it is beginning to cool down—we had our first frost a little over a week ago, I have had to take some time to care for my beloved plants. On a sunny autumn day, I bundled up and took my gardening tools out. I gathered all of my pots and took inventory. I had one pot with peppers and kale—they hadn’t survived the frost that had come, so I knew it was time to refresh the soil in that pot and plant something new. I cleared out the plants and mixed in some new soil in preparation for a fig tree! The garden shops around me don’t have many varieties of plants to choose from this time of year, so I bought a starter plug online that I will be able to plant when it arrives.
After taking inventory of the rest of my pots and plants that I wanted to transfer inside, I decided it was time to show my plants a little extra love. I carefully transferred each plant into slightly larger pots with fresh soil and gave them a good soak before bringing them inside. I had let my olive tree kind of grow wild all summer, so I pruned and trained it to grow more upright. I have had it for so long and almost lost it once, so it is not the most traditional olive tree shape, but it is getting back to a good healthy little tree. I methodically transferred all of my other plants as well, being sure to mix in fresh soil, remove any weeds or leaves that were in the pots and thoroughly watered each plant, allowing it to drain completely before transferring it inside. The air is dryer in my home because of the heat, so it will be important to consistently water everything. I also dug up my little sprayer so that I can give my plants a little spritz between watering to keep them fresh and happy.
Once all of the plants were replanted and ready for the indoors, I scoped out my space and figured out where each plant would do best. Many of my plants need full or partial sun, so I decided that most of them would end up in my sun room. This room is south facing and has windows all around. It is the perfect place to keep plants healthy and happy. I prioritized plants that need a lot of sunlight for that room and then scoped out other places that still got some sun, but also were places that I wanted to make sure that I had some living plants present.
Then came the fun part: lugging plants, arranging and rearranging until my space felt happy and green. I love the texture that plants bring to a home. Leaves of all shapes, branches, vines and buds all bring natural shape to an otherwise human-made space. My sunroom has been transformed into a natural escape where I can’t wait to read and sip tea all winter. The air in my home felt fresh from all of the plants breathing life into the atmosphere.
Once I had found homes for all of my plants from outside, I decided that I also wanted to add a few more plants from which I could harvest food. I know that the fig tree will take a few years to produce fruit, so I am not counting on figs for a while, however I cook a lot of stews in the winter, so I wanted to plant some rosemary. I highly suggest doing some thinking on what herbs you use most and choose those to grow in your own home. I don’t know about you, but when I am cooking something, I often forget to buy herbs and I prefer to avoid buying another plastic package that will only go into the recycling and create more waste.
Rosemary is a staple for my winter cooking. It is perfect for adding rich flavor to stews and making the most delicious roasted potatoes. The scent that permeates from the rosemary plant is so intoxicating and it brings me joy every time I pass it.
When caring for rosemary indoors, you must keep it in a pot with good drainage. It is important to water it regularly, ensuring that the top two inches of soil remain moist. Your rosemary will also need ample light. Keep your rosemary plant in a place with plenty of sun, however be sure to keep your rosemary plant warm. You do not want your plant to be in a cold place, so if your window sill gets cold, try to find a place that has plenty of light but does not get the cold harsh air from the outdoors. Prune regularly to keep your plant full and healthy.
I also decided to plant some lavender. This choice is more for my own love of the scent as well as my hope to use it for natural dyeing—it makes the most lovely green. While it won’t flour much while it is indoors for the winter, it will still produce a lovely scent and plenty of growth from which I can harvest for creating dye. Not to mention, I can use it in my cooking.
Lavender is tricky to grow indoors, but if you are able to find a place that has ample light, you have a chance at success. Be sure to water your lavender plenty when you first transfer to a pot. Allow the soil to dry and then water sparingly, keeping the top 1-inch layer of soil moist. Adding ground eggshells to your lavender plant’s soil will keep the soil more alkaline, which is ideal for growing lavender. I plan to plant half of my plant outside in the spring and keep the other half in a pot. Both plants will live outside when it is warm enough again.
There is something so rewarding about taking care of a garden whether it is inside or outside: Seeing something grow, flourish and produce satisfies a desire to care for something and reap the benefits. Having the ability to get your hands dirty once in a while and help something grow not only is good for the soul but will also add life to your surroundings. Taking time out of the day to care for plants helps me to slow down and find pleasure in simple, mundane moments. One of the best things about this winter is that I have gotten the chance to work with planters made by our very own Cultivations artists. These planters are absolutely beautiful, impeccably made and make great homes for many different kinds of plants. I hope you enjoy tending to your gardens and taking in the simple beauty of dirt, leaves, water and sun.