[NAFEX] Potted Culture - Winter storage?

Kristina & Bruce herenorthere at lycos.com
Mon Mar 15 21:23:19 EST 2004

After I wrote:

>> Yet I never even begin thinking about wrapping my potted figs and moving them into the garage until lows are into the teens.  And although I've never put a thermometer in there, I suspect it gets colder than that when temperatures outside drop below 0.

Tom Olenio asked:

>That makes me wonder...  I was always taught that the limited amount of soil in a pot, which is above ground, repeatedly freezes and thaws with autumn, winter and spring high and low temperatures.  And this repeated process damages the plant's root
>system.  If you wait until you get extended low temps in the teens, and it does not harm your potted figs, taking all the freezes and thaws of autumn, is there anything to worry about in potted currants and apples?

My response is:

You're absolutely right that freezing and thawing over and over is bad.  It makes potholes in roads and dead plants in pots.  But the soil doesn't freeze as quickly as the air.  When the lows are first dipping into the teens, the highs are still reaching into the 30s or 40s (plus solar heating), so the soil is still in the process of cooling to the freezing point.  The soil doesn't actually freeze until much later, long after the trees are in the garage.

When a somewhat tender tree like a fig is in frozen soil, water loss becomes a big issue.  So I spray three coats of WiltPruf on the trees before tying the branches up and wrapping them in burlap.  By being in the garage, temperatures swings are buffered and evapotranspiration losses are reduced.  So the figs happily come back to life every year.

I also keep pots of carnivorous plants and hardy orchids beneath oak leaves every winter and even the Florida species thrive.  The pitcher plants prefer some light while dormant and 12"+ of leaves allows some in while maintaining humidity and preventing those dreaded freeze/thaw cycles.

Bruce Wittchen
1/2 mile outside Hartford, CT

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