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Ways to “winterize” the plants in your RV

My grandma was an expert gardener. She also had a very green thumb when it came to house plants. Come fall each year, she’d begin the migration—bringing some outside plants inside the house where temperatures would be warmer. She called this process “wintering over.”

Can you “winterize” plants in an RV?

I’ve been thinking about my grandma quite a bit lately. There are several reasons she’s been on my mind—not the least of which is the coming of fall. Soon, the nights will become much cooler. Then later, even cold! If I intend to winter over the plants I’ve been coddling all spring and summer, I’ll need a plan.

Note: This is the first year I’ve attempted to keep vegetable plants and flowers growing outside our RV. We’ve spent much of the past several months on a work camping job. Being away from our stix-n-brix home during the growing season prompted me to try container gardening. I’ve had mixed success. Still, I want to try and winter over (aka overwinter) my favorites. So, I’ve been looking for advice. Here’s what I found:

Tips for success

Temperature

  • Warm. Most plants prefer warmth. That means I’ll need to find a place inside our RV that is relatively free from cold drafts. It’s generally recommended to position plants away from exit doors and drafty windows to minimize cold air shock.

Our RV windows are well-sealed but the air near them is cold because our windows have just a single pane of glass. If I get chilled sitting near a window, chances are my plants won’t like it there either. I plan to put them on plant stands a short distance away from the windows. There, the plants will enjoy the sunshine streaming in, while not being adversely affected by cold temps or drafts. Recommended temperature? 65 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Not too warm. While plants like warmth, they don’t appreciate overly warm temperatures. Experienced gardeners caution against placing plants too close to heat sources, like space heaters, furnace vents, and fireplaces. It’s OK to turn down the thermostat for the night (good news, because I prefer sleeping in cooler temps), but remember to adjust the thermostat each morning.

Light

  • Light. Plants require light. I’m a little concerned that if extremely cold temperatures come, we’ll want to cover our RV’s windows with insulated foam board. The foam board will help hold heat inside but will also block the natural light that plants need. If you face a similar situation, consider getting a “grow light.” That’s my plan, and bonus: Some grow lights feature LED light bulbs, which use less electricity.
  • Dust-free. Another tip to help your plants absorb more light is to keep your plant leaves dust-free. Each week or so, take plants to the RV shower and gently spray water on the leaves to remove dust. If a “shower” doesn’t completely do the job, or if a particular type of plant should not be “showered” (see below), you can carefully wipe the leaves with a microfiber cloth. It will remove dust and grime and boost the plant’s photosynthesis process.

Moisture

  • Watering. Good news! You’ll water your winter-over plants less frequently than in the spring and hot summer months. Once a week should do the trick because many plants will go dormant during this time. Expert gardeners suggest using warm water so as not to shock the roots. If you notice yellowing leaves or mold on the soil, you need to cut back on watering. (Hint: You can test the soil. If the dirt is dry an inch or so below soil level, it’s time to water.)
  • Humidity. We all know that excess humidity in an RV is not a good thing, but plants like a humid environment. It will be a challenge to keep a good balance. I plan to wait and see how things go. If the plants’ leaves become dry or droopy, plants stop growing or even wilt, I’ll need to increase humidity.
  • Adding humidity. I can move some plants to the RV’s bathroom, where showers and hand washing will bring extra moisture into the air, as will laundering clothes. I can also frequently mist some of the plants (excluding those with velvety or hairy leaves and definitely not on cactus or succulents). I might try what gardeners call “humidity trays.” Essentially this is a shallow pan filled with water. Rocks or pebbles are placed in the tray. Then plant pots are positioned on top of the rocks in a way that doesn’t allow pots to directly touch the water.

Easy-peasy “over wintering”

This year, my geraniums are going to “hibernate.” (This is a trick my grandma taught me, and you might know it, too.) I plan to pull the geranium plants out of their pots and shake off excess soil. I’ll trim off any diseased or dry leaves and stems, and remove any remaining flowers, too. I’ll let the plants dry out for a couple of days and then into their “hibernating cave” (a brown grocery bag) they’ll go. I have space in one RV cabinet where the closed bag will live until six weeks or so from our final frost. (With the door generally closed, I figure the temperature inside the space should remain between 55-65 degrees F.) In the spring, I’ll trim away dried leaves and plant the stem with roots into the soil.

Do you “winterize” plants in your home or RV? Do you grow veggies or flowers while RVing? Tell us more in the comments below, won’t you?

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McTroy
24 days ago

I have to try the winter storage of geraniums. I have some pretty coral.colored ones I would love to keep for next year. Hoping no more throwing away healthy plants!
Another tip, some plants you can clips branches off and start in water for a new plant. Easy and takes less room than the mature plants.

Millicent Butterworth
23 days ago
Reply to  McTroy

I bought a bag of potting soil in May cutting 3 holes in the plastic after putting the bag of soil in a plastic carton. I planted one cherry tomato, one zucchini, & one pepper plant. Just watered each of the holes. Put carton on picnic table since I’m volunteering at state park. Got pretty good yield, best being cherry tomatoes. It’s September & they are still producing. Zucchini flowers are great in sautés.

Gail
22 days ago

I really love this idea, Millicent! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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