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Tender annuals, like geraniums, need to overwinter before cold weather hits

Several green-leafed stems rest on a wooden table near a wooden-handled knife. Some stems rest in a low glass jar full of white rooting powder.
This winter, some cuttings and a bit of hormone rooting powder placed in a sunny window can help grow more geraniums for next year.

Got begonias, fuschia and geraniums still growing in containers on your back porch? Now is the time to bring these tender annuals indoors to overwinter.

We’ve all finished prepping our gardens for the cold winter months, right? Yeah, me neither.

But if you have some tender annuals in your yard, the mercury is expected to drop next week — which means it’s time to bring them inside. Before you do, try cutting back some of the foliage on your geraniums and begonias to ease the transition to their new home. You want to put them next to a sunny window.

Cut back on watering and leave them there for the winter. They may actually start to grow a little come February or March – but the goal is just helping them survive.

Now, if you have large plants or a lack of sunny window space, you can take four- to six-inch cuttings from the top to down below the leaves. Remove all the bottom leaves, dip the cutting in some rooting hormone powder, then stick a handful of them in a two- to four-inch container with some padding. We’re just trying to get some of them to survive. You’ll want to place the container in a bright room – but not in direct sunlight. In a month, you may see them rooting.

A question about growing pokeweed

Q: I collected seeds from wild pokeweed to plant to improve bird habitat. How should I efficiently scarify the small seeds and stratify the seeds for planting next spring?
Michael, who listens to All Things Gardening on the radio

A: Pokewood is a delicacy in some places, like Japan, where it’s used to make salad.

Now is a good time to gather pokewood seeds. Put a pint of them in a jar, crush them a bit, then fill the jar with water. Let them ferment for a couple days. Then, viable seeds will sink to the button of the jar – allowing you to skim off all the floating material. Remove the good seeds, dry them with paper towels, stick them in a plastic bag, then forget them in your fridge for about three months.

That dormancy period will allow them to stratify. When spring rolls around, sow the seeds in your garden or in a pot so they can germinate. They’ll need some light. If they don’t germinate – you’ll want to scarify them by bruising or nicking the seed coat. Line the bottom of a soup can with some sandpaper, drop the seeds inside, then shake the can around.

The scratched up seeds will take in more water, allowing them to germinate faster. Then, by next spring, you’ll be having some fresh pokeweed salad.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Submit your written question via email, or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time."

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.