Strategies for Maintaining My Garden Through the Winter

Strategies for Maintaining My Garden Through the Winter

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

What do I normally do to prepare my garden for winter? I panic the night before a frost is predicted. I lay old towels on the floor to protect it from dirt and dampness and bring inside all the container plants that are not hardy. When I get time I then stick the plants where I can make some room in my condo which is for the most part not very well-lit. Some of my plants survive this kind of laissez-faire treatment for years but many of them although alive don’t look as good as they could. I think some planning is called for if I want to do better than have hit-or-miss results this year.

Strategy #1 – Saving seeds
Most of my garden plants are hardy perennials and need little or no help from me to survive the winter. However there are a few plants I grow as annuals that I replant every year from seed or just let them reseed themselves – for example Texas Sage and Flowering Tobacco.

Would you like to try saving some of your plants as seeds this year? Here are some tips on seed saving and seed starting:

Strategy #2 – Overwintering as cuttings
I love the sweet potato vines I planted in containers this year. The whole plants are too large for me to bring inside as is so I’m going to grow a couple as cuttings indoors and overwinter the rest as tubers (see Strategy #3).

Here is the method for starting cuttings that I learned in my Master Gardener class. One of my practice plants from the training program is still alive, so give it a try!

  • Prepare a tray full of sterile seed starting medium.
  • Use a sharp clean knife such as a craft knife to cut a 3-4 inch shoot from the stem tip.
  • Remove the bottom few leaves from the cut segment.
  • Dip cut end in rooting hormone.
  • Place cutting in medium and water in well, then let drain.
  • Put tray in a plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap for about a week.
  • Place cuttings in a well-lit location that is 75 to 80 degrees F if possible and keep evenly watered.
  • Gradually harden off cuttings to prepare for planting.

Strategy #3 – Overwintering as dormant bulbs
I grew Cannas and Sweet Potato vines in containers this summer and I’m going to need to bring them in for the winter. Here is how to store non-hardy bulbs.

  • Dig up bulbs, divide and clean them.
  • Let the bulbs dry in an area with good air circulation for a week or two.
  • Dust with sulfur powder to prevent rot.
  • Pack them in a box with peat moss, wood shavings or shredded paper and store in a dark, dry, cool location. Keep packing medium slightly moist and inspect monthly for rot. Make sure this location is away from stored fruits and vegetables.
  • Replant outside in the spring after the last frost.

For tender bulb plants that do not go dormant, repot in a container. Trim off any old foliage but leave the good foliage. Keep evenly moist in a well-lit warm environment.

Strategy #4 – Overwintering as a house plant
For cacti, succulents and tropical plants that are small enough to just leave in their containers and bring in, they will get the following treatment:

  • Provide as much light as possible.
  • Reduce the amount of watering.
  • Refrain from fertilizing.
  • Provide humidity tray for plants that like humidity.
  • Inspect for pests and treat if necessary.
  • Sprinkle BT on soil to reduce fungus gnats breeding in the soil.

Strategy #5 – What’s going to go in my containers during the winter?
This past year I made more use of container plantings in my outdoor garden than I ever have. They added so tremendously to my enjoyment of the garden and I got so many nice comments on them from neighbors that I’m going to try to keep at least one of my containers going all winter. Some of my containers are too fragile to ride out the freeze-thaw cycle so I will store them empty indoors, but there are one or two that I think can withstand the temperature variations as long as they have good drainage. Pretty soon I will have to decide what to put in them. I have decided to plant Pansies around the edges and Winter Scouring Rush in the center. The rush should stay green all winter. Winter Scouring Rush can become invasive but it has some good qualities – it’s an interesting “living fossil” that reproduces with spores and rhizomes. It can grow in soil or in standing water. I have some in my water garden also.

Many people wait until late winter or early spring to plant Pansies but you can plant them in fall – they may not look great all winter but planting them in the fall gives them a head start and you will get a better and earlier show in the spring. If I decide I need a third layer to add interest between my low plant and my tall plant, I think I will try putting some trimmed evergreen boughs in water containers set into the soil. If your winter planters need a little help, dried plants, artificial plants, lights and seasonal decorations can be good additions. As you’re planting your container in the fall, you can also add winter hardy bulbs for an extra surprise in the spring!

Strategy #6 – Keeping track of my perennials
Parts of my garden need a major makeover. Depending on what is going to be done, sometimes winter is an excellent time to perform some of the required tasks. Winter is also the time when many of my perennial plants are dormant and can’t be seen above the soil surface. I may risk damaging them if I make major changes in their spot. Some of my native plants like Wild Sweet William and Indian Pink I have tried for years to establish before success – I don’t want to risk losing
those plants now that I’ve finally gotten them in a place they like. They should not be trod on, accidentally dug up or smothered. I need to know where these plants are at all times so before they die back to the ground I will make drawings of my garden and put tags in the ground to mark the plants.

Strategy #7 – Protecting plants in situ
The growing season for some crops can be extended with row covers. Some plants such as strawberries, mums and roses need mulching for the winter and just about any plant will benefit from it even if it will survive without mulch. Mulch stabilizes the ground temperature, prevents frost heaving and can help keep soil from drying out too much. If you have any newly planted broadleaf evergreens such as azaleas, boxwood and hollies, place a burlap screen around them for winter wind protection. Paint the trunks of young fruit trees with diluted white latex paint to prevent winter sun scald.


Adventures in Indoor Horticulture With Rich Reed

Adventures in Indoor Horticulture With Rich Reed

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Name of Image

Rich Reed is a gardening friend that I met several years ago while trading plants on Freecycle. He also recently became a volunteer at Missouri Botanical Garden. I previously interviewed Rich for my blog in 2015 because I was impressed by what he was able to achieve at the apartment complex where he lives, using it as a living laboratory for indoor and outdoor growing.

At the time I’m writing this article we are past the average first frost date for our area without actually having frost yet. I’m enjoying the extra time to keep our plants outdoors this year but soon many of us will have to bow to the inevitable and bring some of them in. I wanted to interview Rich again because he grows a lot of tropical plants outdoors in the warm months that need to be moved with the seasons and he propagates a lot of plants indoors for transplanting outdoors later. I knew he’d have some useful tips for home gardeners because he does not indulge in a lot of special equipment and has learned a lot through trial and error on how to use his indoor growing space. Since our last interview, the manager of the apartment complex where Rich lives has given him the use of an empty apartment unit where he can store supplies and grow lots of plants. He packs this extra unit, which he calls the sun room, as well as his own living quarters with as many plants as possible! He also has an agreement with the apartment manager to supply plants for the grounds and the building’s indoor spaces such as stairwells and balconies. I asked Rich for some of his best tips.

Cuttings growing in the sun room

Because this apartment unit is not used as living quarters, Rich can make maximum use of the window light for growing cuttings.

Like the rest of us Rich does struggle with getting plants that normally live outside to stay alive indoors. His situation does not allow for a lot of supplemental lighting. To get more light to the plants he recommends rotating the plants outside on warm days whenever possible. He gets light from the West through his windows – both his living quarters and sun room face in that direction. He makes some use of ordinary household lighting fixtures and bulbs. He prefers fluorescent to incandescent lights because they are not as hot. When plants are not doing well in a particular spot in the room he moves them to see if the light is more favorable somewhere else.

Overwatering is the most common way for Rich to lose plants – not surprisingly he has found that plants kept indoors need a lot less water than when they are outside, and less water still when it’s colder. He does not take any precautions to remove pests from his plants or pots before bringing then indoors. Fortunately his pest problems have been minor so far.

He has had the most consistent success indoors with “viney” plants such as Pothos, Arrowhead vines, Sweet Potato, Lamium and Vinca. Not surprisingly the types of plants that are commonly sold as house plants do well in home lighting conditions.

Banana plantRich is planning on bringing inside some of his really large and nice banana plants for the winter while leaving a few small ones outside as an experiment. His tropical Hibiscus and other tropical plants that are woody will also come inside as whole potted plants. He has many herbaceous tropical plants outside augmenting his perennials and annuals. For space reasons it’s not really possible to bring them all in intact, so he gets around that by making small cuttings of plants he wants to grow again next year. He grows more cuttings than he needs for the apartment property so that he has some available for gifts and trading stock. He does not use any special rooting hormone or treatments for cuttings – just water and soil.

Celosia outside and Celosia cuttings

Celosia adding color to the outdoor garden on the left. The right photo shows a cutting with root growth after two weeks in water.

Rich with rubber treeEven with an abundance of plants in his environment Rich still likes trading. Any plant he doesn’t already have he would like to add to
his collection – but realistically he has to be mindful of how much room is available. He is on the lookout for a Chinese Evergreen and some Peppermint – he has been able to find numerous other members of the mint family for trade but is missing that one.

At left: Rich with a favorite rubber tree and some other plants that live in the apartment building’s atria all year round.


Textured Backgrounds For Fall Leaf Greeting Cards

Textured Backgrounds For Fall Leaf Greeting Cards

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Learn techniques for making interesting backgrounds for paper projects with some items that can be found in a hardware store. Make a Happy Thanksgiving card by embellishing your card further with rubber stamps and paper tape!

Tools and Materials
*indicates items available at Schnarr’s
*Foam paint roller
Water-based block printing ink or rubber stamping ink
Rubber brayer – a brayer is a rubber roller that is used to spread printmaking ink
Palette knife
Fall leaf, foliage and flower rubber stamps
Stamps with sayings, greetings or sentiments (optional)
StazOn Jet Black and Timber Brown stamping ink
*Freezer paper
*Masking tape
*Glue stick
8.5 x 11 cardstock in a light color and a second color
Assorted 12″ x 12″ decorative papers in both light and dark colors
Bone folder
*Scrap piece of thick wood dowel
*Two long nails
Optional – craft stencil with leaf designs
Paper cutter or paper cutting system
Envelope template (download here –
*Double-sided tape
*Rags or paper towels for cleanup
Flat metal ruler
*Gold acrylic paint
Rectangular eraser with flat surfaces
Old cleaned food container lid
Matte medium
Decorative paper edging scissors
Decorative paper tape (also known as washi tape)
Clean scrap paper


Some of these pictures will show parts being made for more than one greeting card. Normally when I’m making cards I make several at a time and I make more parts than I think I’ll need so that I can mix and match to get the best color combinations.

1. First take a foam roller and wrap some string around it in a random fashion. Tie off string to hold it in place.

Foam paint roller wrapped with string to make textures.
Foam paint roller wrapped with string to make textures.

2. Tape some freezer paper down to your work surface shiny side up. This is to protect the table and also so you can use part of the paper covered work surface as a disposable palette. In some of my sample photos I used a large piece of scrap plexiglass as a work surface and palette instead of the freezer paper – that’s why the ceiling lights are reflected in a couple of the pictures.

3. Choose a light earth tone color of ink and spread some on a portion of the freezer paper. Tape a piece of cardstock to the work surface to keep it from moving around. Roll the string covered foam roller in the ink and test on a piece of scrap paper to see if the color is what you want. When satisfied, re-ink and roll the pattern on the cardstock. Let ink dry on cardstock. Rinse out and clean the foam roller.

An example of a rolled pattern.
An example of a rolled out pattern. To make the color darker, press harder or add more ink.

4. Take a segment of thick wood dowel and hammer a nail in each end of the dowel to use as handles. Wrap string around the wood randomly. Select an earth tone ink color that is darker than the first color. Roll some ink out on your palette with the the rubber brayer. Roll the string covered dowel onto the ink palette then onto your cardstock multiple times in different directions until you are satisfied with the results. Let dry.

5. These next few steps (5-7) are optional. If you want to tone down the texture on the cardstock to make it fade more into the background, a very effective way to do that is to roll some semi-translucent stamping ink in a light color over your background. Chalk inks and pigment inks in white and soft pastel colors are very effective for this.

White chalk ink rolled out on the left. On the right is a piece of textured cardstock that I want to tone down to make more subtle.


What a similar piece of cardstock looks like after rolling with off-white chalk ink.

6. Allow the chalk or pigment ink to dry thoroughly. Chalk and pigment inks take longer to dry than dye-based inks. To speed up the drying, you can use a heat tool or iron the sheets of cardstock between two sheets of clean scrap paper.

7. Chalk ink can cause interesting effects when used in conjunction with other inks. Often it causes a blurring effect if you stamp over it, especially if the chalk ink is not completely dry. Sometimes this blurring effect can be exploited in a design to good effect but in this case I don’t want my next layer to be blurred. To prevent this, paint the inked cardstock with a layer of matte medium and allow to dry.

8. Take a piece of 11″ x 8.5″ piece of cardstock that is a different color and cut it in half lengthwise. Fold one of these pieces in half and make the fold crisp with a bone folder. You’ll end up with a card that is 4.25″ x 5.5″ when folded to use as a base.

9. Cut out a piece of 4″ x 5.25″ paper to use as border around your center piece. Center it on the card base and glue down with a glue stick.

10. Cut out a 3.75″ x 5″ section out of your printed cardstock to use as the center front of your greeting card.

Three parts for each card – a folded base piece which is the body of the card, a border piece and a center piece.


These pieces are stacked but not glued yet to see how they look and check if the colors work well together.

11. Squirt some gold paint onto an old food container lid and dip the side of the rectangular eraser in the paint. Use the side of the eraser to stamp a border on three sides of the center 3.75″ x 5″ section. The gold edges will become the top and side edges of the center part of the card.


12. Using StazOn Timber Brown ink, stamp two flower or foliage stamps in the corners of your front piece. Bold stamps without fine detail will be especially effective here because a little bit of the brushed-on texture from the matte medium will find it’s way into the design and enhance the rich textures of the card.

13. Draw some leaf shapes on the backs of different pieces of decorative paper. You can use a stencil to trace the leaf shapes as I did or draw them from your own design. Cut out leaves.

14. Using black ink and rubber stamps with sayings on them, stamp some of the leaves with a word that goes well with “Happy Thanksgiving”. In my samples I stamped “Togetherness”, “Treasure” and “Celebrate”. Underline your stamped word with a piece of plaid patterned paper tape in fall colors or other tape design of your choice. Trim the tape.

15. Stamp “Happy Thanksgiving” or other greeting of your choice onto a strip of light colored paper. Trim the strip with decorative paper edging scissors. Take a piece of 3.75″ x .75″ decorative paper and tape a piece of decorative paper tape down the center lengthwise. I chose a black and white floral design for my samples. With a glue stick, glue the strip that says “Happy Thanksgiving” over the paper tape.

16. Stamp some leaf rubber stamps in black on various pieces of light colored paper. Cut out the stamped leaves.

17. Place a variety of leaf parts on the center of your card and move them around until you get an arrangement that you like. Glue down the leaves with the glue stick. Glue the “Happy Thanksgiving” strip to the bottom center of the card. Center and glue the center section to the front of the card.

18. To make an envelope for your card, print out the envelope template and cut it out. I laminated my template for durability because I use it a lot. Place the template on the back side of a piece of decorative paper. Trace around it with a pencil. Cut out envelope. Fold in tabs, using the ruler and bone folder as aids. Assemble envelope by putting double-sided tape about halfway up the side flaps and pressing tabs together.

You’re done!

DIY Upcycling

Making Fun and Useful Things From Recycled Materials

Making Fun and Useful Things From Recycled Materials

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Fall Art WalkAt right is a photo of my display at Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves, Missouri at 40 East Lockwood. You can view my work from October 6 – October 15 2017 as part of the Old Webster Fall Art Walk. Look for the lime green cones outside Schnarr’s and other businesses in Old Webster to see where exhibits for the art walk are located.

One of my favorite things to do is to find interesting salvaged materials and apply my creativity to see what I can make out of them. Don’t get me wrong, a trip to the craft store or hardware store is always a treat but sometimes all-new materials don’t give me the same satisfaction that I get from bringing something old back to life. Some materials I use are hand-me-downs or old items of mine that are no longer useful. If I can’t use a whole object that is being discarded I often scavenge parts from it. I’ve made myself some really nice things out of stuff that I picked up off of the curb on trash day. Garage sales and thrift stores sometimes yield fun supplies and I also like to look for interesting materials at non-profits that specialize in keeping things out of landfills such as Leftovers, Etc. and Perennial.

Do you want some ideas for repurposing materials? I’ve written tutorials about how I made many of the items in the show. For inspiration, check out some of my projects!

Antique Key Necklace
Recycled materials – skeleton key, upcycled chain, thrift store beads
TutorialSkeleton Key Necklace



Birding Journal
Recycled materials – matt board, scrap paper, found images
TutorialHandmade Birding Journal



Insulator Votive Candle Lantern
Recycled materials – Glass insulator
TutorialMake an Insulator Votive Candle Lantern



Button Bracelets
Recycled materials – buttons, trim, ribbon
TutorialButton Headband and Bracelet



Butterfly Feeder
Recycled materials – glass dish, metal rings
TutorialUpcycled Butterfly Feeder



Wood Garden Sign
Recycled materials – wood plank
TutorialStencil a Wood Garden Sign



Mosaic Plant Stand
Recycled materials – wood, paper backing glass blobs, tiles
TutorialBuild a Mosaic Plant Stand



Dia De Los Muertos Skull
Recycled materials – fabric, beaded trim, floral embellishments, chipboard
TutorialDia De Los Muertos Skull



Upcycled Tea Box
Recycled materials – Wood tea box, found images
TutorialVintage Look Box



Upcycled Metal Tin
Recycled materials – metal tin, found images, recycled ribbon
TutorialUpcycle a Metal Tin With Decoupage



Mini Album
Recycled Materials – scrap paper and cardstock
TutorialMake a Mini Album

Gardening Lawns

Coping With Dry Autumn Conditions

Coping With Dry Autumn Conditions

by Tim Wittmaier

Fall is normally a good time to work in the garden. The weather is cooler than normal which is easier to work in but forecasts call for warmer weather to return for awhile. We keep getting predictions for rain which so far has not come.

Warm water temperatures have made this year’s hurricane season especially bad in the South and some of those folks have suffered from too much water. Many plants in the St. Louis area are suffering from lack of moisture though some spots have been lucky with rain. The ground is generally very dry. There is more work that could be done right now if it was not so dry.

For example, lawn care. Normally this is the best time to seed a lawn. This year even irrigated lawns are struggling because the ground is so hard and compacted. The water cost of irrigating a lawn is a problem too.

If you decide to plant, thatch, aerate, feed and seed. Get the seed 1/4 inch 1/2 deep in the soil by raking. If you wait too late to seed the cold could slow down germination. The normal window is 45 days starting around September 1st but can be extended when the weather is warmer than normal.

A lot of zoysia lawns are suffering this year from excessive thatch. It’s important to to remove thatch periodically to avoid problems. Excessive thatch can kill your grass and necessitate starting over with a new planting.

Most ornamental plants in our lawns and gardens are shallow rooted. Check your irrigation system to see if it’s watering the right areas and make sure you are not wasting water with your system or hoses.

How can you tell if you are wasting water? Is anything broken or leaking? Are all your fittings tight? If you’re not sure if your irrigation system is set correctly, have a meeting with the company that installed it to check exactly what is being watered.

Make sure you are making the best of what water you do have. When is a good time to water? Morning is the best, but if you don’t have a choice try not to irrigate after 7 pm. If you have an automatic system or timers, try a 3:30 am – 5:30 am regimen – I have had success with that schedule. If you can’t water at the ideal time, don’t skip it because the plants need it. You may find that your lawn and plants need daily watering for 20 minutes per session. Depending on your conditions 40 minutes every other day works for some. Cool the water from your hose before putting on plants so you don’t scald them.

This is also a good time to prune and feed perennials. If your perennials don’t look good they will probably perk up when it gets more moist. Normally this a good time to divide perennials but this year I would hold off as long as it stays dry.

Trees and shrubs are not easy to keep alive in dry fall conditions. October is better for planting when September is very dry. Perennial flowers can be planted now. They will need daily watering for 10-14 days to get established. Container plantings are doing well now as long as they get watered.

We are probably going to lose a lot of mature trees to drought this year. A wet spring followed by drought is very hard on plants. The best preventative is selection so there may not be much you can do now. If you have a valuable tree that is important to you with unusual symptoms have an arborist take a look at it.

Sustainability Upcycling

Old Webster Fall Art Walk Opens Friday!

Starting on Friday, October 6th, Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves in the Old Webster Business District will host artist and Schnarr’s employee Carolyn Hasenfratz during the Old Webster Fall Art Walk. You can see all different kinds of artwork in various businesses by taking a self-guided walking tour in the area.

On Saturday October 7 and Saturday October 14 from 12-4 pm, Carolyn will be at Schnarr’s in Webster demonstrating art projects you can do with items from a hardware store. On the 7th there will be a demonstration of Stamping and Printing with Found Objects and on the 14th Carolyn will make fall greeting cards while you watch. Carolyn’s display will be viewable when the store is open from October 6 through October 15. Stop by to see examples of things she has made from repurposed and recycled materials such as distressed wood, salvaged hardware, reclaimed ceramic tiles, scrap fabric and much more.

For more information about the Art Walk, go to: