This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Window plants suffer much at this season from the high and dry temperature at which it is necessary for human comfort to keep our dwellings. Air can seldom be admitted from the lowness of the external temperature. Saucers of water under the plants do much to remedy the aridity under which room plants suffer. In such cases, however, so much water must not be given to plants as to those without saucers. The water is drawn up into the soil by attraction; and though the surface will appear dry, they will be wet enough just beneath.
The more freely a plant is growing, the more water it will require; and the more it grows, the more sun and light will it need. In all cases, those which seem to grow the fastest should be placed nearest the light. The best aspect for room plants is the south-east. They seem like animals in their affection for the morning sun. The first morning ray is worth a dozen in the evening. Should any of our fair readers find her plants, by some unlucky calculation, frozen in the morning, do not remove them at once to a warm place, but dip them in cold water, and set them in a dark spot, where they will barely escape freezing. Sunlight will only help the frost's destructive powers.
It is not exactly the season for re-potting generally; but anything that is about to grow, and seems cramped for room may have a shift. This is the rule in plant-growing; for if we re-pot when the roots are inactive, the water is not drawn as rapidly from the soil as it should be, and then it sours, and injures the roots.
The best kind of earth to use is the surface soil, containing the spongy mass of surface roots, from a wood; the first two inches of an old pas-ture field, the turfy, spongy mass called peat, from sandy bogs or swamps; a little well decayed hot bed manure; some sharp sand; are now about the only "elements" that the most skillful gardener cares to have beside him; and many a good gardener has to find himself minus some of these, and be satisfied.
The soil for potting should be used rather dry; that is, it should be in such a condition that it will rather crumble when pressed, than adhere closer together. Large pots - those over four inches, - should have a drainage. This is made by breaking up broken pots to the size of beans, putting them in the bottom a quarter or half an inch deep, and putting about an eighth of an inch of old moss, or any similar rough material, over the mass of "crocks" to keep out the earth from amongst it. Little benefit arises from draining pots below four inch, the moisture filtering through the porous pots quite fast enough; and the few pieces of "drainage" often thrown in with the soil placed right over, is of little or no use.
It will still be severely cold in many districts where our magazine circulates; though in the "sunny South" the roses are almost in bloom. For the benefit of these belated ones we may remark that it is better to keep in heat in cold weather by covering, where possible, than to allow it to escape, calculating to make it good by fire-heat, which is, at best, but a necessary evil. Where bloom is in demand, nothing less than 55° will accomplish the object; though much above that is not desirable, except for tropical hot-house plants. Where these plants are obliged to be wintered in a common greenhouse, they should be kept rather dry,and not be encouraged much to grow, or they may rot away.