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January 2018
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Episode 131 Overwintering

Part of my changes is doing better show notes so essentially the notes I take, I leave here for you.  I apologize for the grammar or the incoherent ramblings.  Its written how I think so…

What is it – Minimizing the harshness of the winter conditions for a plant.

Why do it – some perennial plants (called tender) will not survive harsh winter conditions.  Therefore, in order to keep them alive, avoid buying new or to maximize production they must be overwintered.  Freezes crystalize water into ice.  The crystals are sharp and bleed the plant from  the inside.  Banana has a pseudostem.  Its basically leaves wrapping upward.  Its not a tree, there is no wood.  Figs are very sappy wood.

What do I do it with – Any plant not rated to survive in your zone.  For instance a banana tree might be rated to zone 7 or 8.  I live in zone 6.  I have to take action or it dies.  Olives, bananas, tea, coffee, passionflower, pineapple, pomegranite, dragonfruit, citrus.

Although it isn’t thought of as such we commonly overwinter root crops like potatoes, onions, etc.

Also, things we don’t think of perennial.  Chili peppers – (www.Thechileman.org)

 Capsicum (both cultivated & wild) Successfully over wintered plants nearly always produce more pods in year 2. This is particularly true for some of the chiense species (like the Habaneros), which often have long growing seasons of 120 days + and don’t get enough time to fruit in all their glory in year 1, particularly in temperate climates like the UK. The trick to over wintering is to control growth or manage dormancy. Dormancy, the process when your plants effectively ‘hibernate’ can kick in when natural light levels fade and the temperature falls back below 50oF. Dormant plants will shed all leaves and so no signs of growth, however they are not dead. Dormant plants should be cut right back leaving only a small stump just a few inches above the soil line.

…watering regimes also has an influence on over wintering success or failure. Chile plants hate getting there feet too wet, particularly when there is not enough climatic heat to drive the process of transpiration (the evaporation of water from both the plant’s leaf and the soil). You should keep watering to a minimum; maybe as little as every other week rather than every other day although never let plants soil go completely bone dry.

When to do it –  After the growing season has ended but before harsh conditions arrive.  Harsh conditions can be subjective.

How to do it –

1.       In the ground – If the plant can be overwintered in the ground it will help the root system the most (as long as it survives).  You simply need to build shelter over the plant.  Mulch heavily.  Remove growth if applicable.  Place some type of container or wrapping over the plant.  It must be insulated heavily and protected.  Figs do ok with this method.  Can do bananas but you have to cut quite a bit off.

2.       Zombie –  Dig a deep trench close by.  Dig up the root ball, tip the plant over so the root ball and stem are covered with dirt down below most frosts.  Figs do well with this.

3.       Complete removal and harboring – Dig up the roots (some pruning is understood).  If its in a pot its not an issue at all.  Put the roots someplace safe.  Under a house, in a garage or shed.  Higher the temp the better.  Ideally needs to be above 40 at all times.  If you want it to keep growing somewhat place it in a bright window and keep the temp around 70.  Works well for bananas/tea/coffee/citrus.  Greenhouses work pretty well – mention new site.

Other considerations.  If dormant, little to no water.  If still growing, normal water.  Rodents must be kept away or defended.


Mil Apostol is joining us with a segment called “How Do I Eat This?”  You all have asked me about cooking things and I am not a good cook but Mil is!  (Note:  I think I might have communicated that Mil had a show.  Mil was in fact ON a show where they dug up her backyard and put in a garden.)

About Mil:

Mil Apostol has been cooking professionally for over 20 years.  Her most recent restaurant position as Chef was at Cesar, a San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 Best Restaurant.  While there, she helped with the Cesar cookbook, Cesar, Recipes from a Tapas Bar.   In addition, she wrote menus, constantly tested recipes, and directed the staff (plus, she cooked a lot of pork).  Other restaurant stints include Barbara Tropp’s China Moon Cafe (where she had to learn to cut a very tiny dice) and Bay Wolf, another San Francisco Top 100 Best Restaurant (where she ate a lot of duck).

A child of immigrant parents, she lived all over the US (her father was in the military). Her early food memories revolve around her parents’
gardens and fishing.  In her spare time, her hobbies revolve around food–whether beekeeping, gardening, bread making, mushroom foraging, making ferments, tonic herbalism, and trying strange foods (that grasshopper from Mexico tasted like those dried shrimp, she swears!!).  Luckily, she has a couple of non-food hobbies: geocaching, reading, and traveling (to places where she can’t speak to anyone except with a lot of pointing).

She hasn’t written any books, nor has she made any major speeches, or gotten any major awards except for Best Student in 5th grade.  But she does have a blog at www.UrbanFarmAndBeehives.com where she is more serious.

5 comments to Episode 131 Overwintering

  • Good overwintering tips.  I have a lemon verbena and a stevia plant that I’m trying to overwinter.  The lemon verbena is in a pot and made it through last winter. The stevia I dug from the garden and potted up before frost.  They are in a pretty cool area of the basement.  After listening today I will try and be more conservative with the watering and as an experiment I cut back the stevia fairly severly.  Since the new growth sprouts from the roots maybe this will help. 
    Also, I was thrilled when the new segment turned out to be Mil.  I did not know she was an accomplished chef in addition to a knowledgeable beekeeper and gardener.  Enjoyed her presentation greatly, and am looking forward to future segments.  Information on cooking with real food is much needed and always welcome!

  • Jason

    Maggie – Yeah I’m interested in the cutting back.  I’ve never tried it with something like that. 

    Yeah Mil is great!


  • Mark Nofsinger

    Finally got caught up with my podcast listening this week and really enjoyed this episode. This will be my first year overwintering anything edible outside it it’s just a few herbs. Glad to hear the addition of Mil’s segment! There are a few things I can grow tons of but am at sort of a loss how to vary preparing them so this is going to be helpful.

  • Jason

    Thanks Mark!

    I love overwintering stuff.  It makes next years start a little easier!


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