Hartley Magazine

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Moving Time

The front steps of my greenhouse become clogged with plants as I’m moving plants inside for the winter.

Because the temperature in my greenhouse can reach 140oF on a sunny summer day, most of my greenhouse plants spend the summer on my patio. Come fall, however, these plants must be moved back into the greenhouse. For them, it’s rather like returning to an indoor home after enjoying summer at the cooler, breezier beach.

Each year, though, I acquire more plants, either by purchase or by propagation. Ten years ago, for instance, I bought four lycoris bulbs. With each bulb setting new ones, I now have roughly two dozen pots with lycoris bulbs in them. And that’s just one type of flower. This year I moved back into my greenhouse more than 200 plants, ranging in size from ones in 4-inch pots to trees in pots 36 inches across. That included a few rat-tail cacti with ‘tails’ over four feet long!

And all the while my plants keep growing larger. Some of my citrus trees are now about 8 feet tall and in 36” diameter pots. My first fig tree grew even taller, to 12 feet in height. It broke through the pot bottom, and grew to reach the greenhouse ceiling and was pushing against the glass. I propagated cuttings from that Peter’s honey fig tree and also purchased other fig varieties, giving me a current total of nine large, fruit-bearing fig trees, all of which are still growing vigorously, or should that be figorously. (Sorry!).

These figs will need to be kept warm if they are to ripen before first frost. In their large, 24-inch pots, my fig trees take up lots of space in the greenhouse.

Needless to say, my greenhouse move-in chore has become increasingly long and arduous. But luckily, over the years, I’ve learned several tricks to make the job somewhat easier.  First, I let the soil in my pots dry out a bit, so I don’t have to move both plants and lots of water, which can be heavy. Second, I avoid lifting and carrying heavy plants, employing carts instead. One helpful tool is a flat dolly. It’s far better than a wheelbarrow for moving plants because the platform is only a few inches off the ground. You can even make one yourself with some 2×4 lumber and four swivel castors. For very big plants, a hand truck is extremely helpful. Especially when there aren’t stairs to negotiate, it lets you move even large potted trees from one spot to another with relative ease.

Unfortunately, I still don’t have enough space in my greenhouse for everything I grow, as hard as I try to pack everything in efficiently. So, some plants must survive the winter inside my house, or in the basement, or in the garage. And even those places are getting crowded with plants. Maybe this year I should start giving more plants away!