Master Gardener Sue Morris: Prepare your plants for their return to indoors

Morris offers tips on saving seeds for next year's garden and also preparing houseplants to return indoors for the winter.

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Are you a seed saver or would you like to try saving some seeds this fall to plant in the spring?

Here are some tips for doing that.

Store seeds in tightly sealed glass containers. You can store different kinds of seeds, each in individual paper packets, together in a large container. Keep seeds dry and cool. A temperature between 32° and 41°F is ideal, so your refrigerator can be a good place to store seeds. Label your saved seeds with their name, variety and the date you collected them. The longer they are stored, the less likely they are to germinate well.

Zinnias and marigolds are easy seeds to save and store. You can also sprinkle them in your flower bed this fall and they should germinate next spring, as long as you don’t treat your soil with Preen in the spring.

If you planted an heirloom or open-pollinated variety, this is a good candidate for seed saving. Hybrid varieties will result in plants that don’t necessarily have the good qualities of the parent. Choose seeds from healthy plants that are free of disease symptoms and unblemished fruit or pods. Self-pollinating vegetables are more likely to produce what you expect (tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas). Vine crops have separate male and female flowers which can cross-pollinate. You COULD end up with a zucchini-pumpkin hybrid that doesn’t have the best qualities of either parent.


Keep reading below the related content for more of this week's column from Master Gardener Sue Morris.

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Four different sedum plants shown outdoors for the summer
It is time to prepare house plants for their return to indoor living. This collection of sedum plants has already made the transition to indoors.
Donna Middleton | West Central Tribune

If your houseplants were put outside for the summer, now that temperatures are going below 45-50 degrees it is time to get them back inside before there is damage. You don’t want to bring in aphids, mealybugs, white flies or other pests which can turn into a major infestation during the winter if you don’t inspect/clean up the plants before you bring them in the house.

Robin Trott, University of Minnesota Extension educator has some good suggestions for cleanup:

  • Some recommend bathing or soaking plants in a bucket of water with mild dishwashing soap before bringing them inside.
  • If your plants are too big for the bucket treatment, spray them with water to remove outdoor dust and soft-bodied insects from the leaves.
  • Next, wash the top and undersides of the leaves with water and dishwashing soap, and then rinse with water.
  • It is important that the soapy water also gets into the soil as it will help to kill any pests residing there, too.
  • Once inside, check them with each watering for any sign of infestation and, if spotted, treat them religiously with an insecticidal soap until the problem is resolved.
  • Also, wash the outside of the pots to remove dirt and to remove any unwanted pests that might be present.
Photo of a large German Ivy plant
It is time to prepare house plants for their return to indoor living. The owner of this German Ivy, which spent the summer in a pot with a supertunia, is trying to find a place for it for the winter.
Donna Middleton | West Central Tribune

Some plants may have outgrown their pots. If they have gotten too large for your indoor space, they may need to be pruned, separated or even propagated to start a new plant.

Reverse harden off your plants as they may have shock if suddenly brought back in doors. This may result in yellow leaves, wilt, dieback or death. Let them get adjusted to the indoors again a little at a time. First put them in a very sunny window and gradually reduce sun exposure to its permanent location.


Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing this column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.

Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing a column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.
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