Overwintering in a garage?

Hello All!
I have a couple of trees that I worked on in a workshop in late October. Did some foliage reduction (about 1/3) and some heavy branch bending on one of them (Englemann Spruce and RMJ). I was told by the instructors that I was not to let the trees freeze since we had done work on them. With that guidance I have been keeping them in my garage. Problem is that it rarely gets below 45 degrees and hovers around 50 and its dark. Is that to warm/dark to over winter them? I guess the question is which is better: the garage or outside healed in with wind protection? I am in Northern VA zone 7a. Thanks for your help!!

Hi Doug, I assume you are talking about temperatures in your garage? At 50 F (or 10 C) some trees will begin to wake up. If this happens and there is insufficient daylight you will get, at best, weak and sappy growth. Your trees definitely need daylight. Do you have access to a greenhouse? I don’t know how cold your area gets in the winter but this would offer winter protection and daylight. I don’t think healing in is a good option after doing so much work on them.

USDA Zone 7A has a lowest expected temperature of 0 to 5F (-18 to -15C) so protection is warranted when it gets cold. I agree that keeping them below 40F (5C) is a good idea with some light.

One option is to build a small simple greenhouse by covering a framework with clear plastic and providing some heat. I would put it in a spot that does not get afternoon sun to avoid overheating. You can het with the combination of a small electric fan heater and a thermostat. I am using an Inkbird ITC-608T controller since it can handle 1800W in either heating or cooling mode. They make others that just do heating for less than US$50.


… or, just rig a cheep (mayby 4000 lumens…) LED shop light above them, on a timer. It wont add to the heat.
Don’t forget to water!

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Bonsai Empire just posted a video on YouTube with Ryan explaining the overwintering process in a good amount of detail in each scenario. It includes the idea of over wintering in a garage with it’s pros and cons>

That’s exactly what prompted the question Reno-David! It was a great video and it got me thinking about the trees in the garage. I might have to try the mini greenhouse option. Thanks!

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I was thinking about that too KurtP. I’m concerned about the temperatures though as it appears my garage is too well insulated as the temps are hovering around 50 deg. Thanks for your input! BTW I have a reminder on my phone to check the water every 3 days. :+1:

I like the idea Marty. Would there be any concern about warm air blowing over the trees? I guess I would have to keep a close eye on the watering.

I have one small fan that runs all of the time and the one with the heater points the other way down the isle. My greenhouse is about 10 x 27 ft. (3 x 8 m). It only comes on when heat is needed. In a small greenhouse/coldframe I would think pointing it between the trees would work well.

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I’ve been garaging my trees for 3-4 years. Ideally, I’d have a structure, but I don’t.

Welcome to, “The Plant Dance.”

I keep the trees outside except when temps dip below what is deemed safe, then I bring them into the garage. Sometimes I’m pulling them in and putting them out every day for a week or more. Somedays I’m lazy and I don’t bother putting them out but it seems a few days of staying in the garage isn’t too bad.

It’s a total pain, but like anything - it can be a labor of love. I have three hand carts that I pull trees in and out on. Most I leave on the carts all winter long.

I do note I will get bud swell and leaf out earlier, but it can be well managed if you’re careful.

I’m not sure on conifers, but for my deciduous, it helps to keep them out of direct sunlight so as not to exacerbate the bud swell.

A coldframe is in my future.

Sidenote: You may want to ask Ryan or someone else. He said that >50% reduction warrants protecting over the winter. So not sure how your 1/3 would play out and if protection below freezing is necessary. Maybe just 28 degrees? Maybe treat as normal. He says it’s all about foliar reduction. You might try asking him in the Q&A and sending a before & after photo if you have one.

Excellent advice. I’ve been doing the same shuffle. Guess I’ll have to suck it up this year. No heavy work in fall for me again! Thanks again for the advice and I’ll check with Ryan on your suggestion. Thanks!!

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First of all, do we know each other? I am in Northern VA as well. Are you friends with Henri B. - your name seems familiar to me.

As for the garage issue. I have tried over multiple years overwintering in a garage with a row of windows in both doors so there is some light. No car is in the garage. That is important, because if you also store your car in the garage, that will cause a significant temperature increase when you park a warm car in the garage. I have had very poor results with the garage. Either the trees dry out (rapidly - despite being rather vigilant with watering) or I get weak growth that tends to burn up when brought outside in the elements (even if kept in mostly shade the wind is present). I no longer even consider the garage. It is true significant fall work should be protected but as someone else said, 1/3 foliage reduction (on an otherwise healthy and robust tree) should not be an issue. Heavy branch bending is a subjective term. Most of what folks is NOVA think is heavy branch bending is not what Ryan would consider heavy branch bending. I have been a student at Mirai for several years so I feel reasonably confident in saying this. I would lean toward healing your trees in on the ground with mulch up to the rim of the pots and protected from the wind as best you can. Wind can be the worst offender.

Where was the workshop? Doyle’s place? I had to bail at the last minute. Let me know if you want to discuss further.

Hello Dstar! I just recently re-joined NVBS after a 15yr hiatus. Ive been on the last couple of virtual meetings so maybe you know me from there and I think I remember your name as well. Ive known Chuck and Joe for some time from my previous membership. I would like to discuss it further please so Ill send you a message.
And yes it was at Jim Doyles place with Chase Rosade. Had a great time!
Thanks for the response!!


Then I am sure I met you, so sorry for not connecting name. I am one of the mentors in NVBS, so I am sure our paths will cross. If you want to send before and after photos so I can judge about whether you need “greenhouse-type” protection or not, feel free. My hunch is outside, heeled in with wind protection would be just fine. I also go up the Jim’s a lot for workshops.

Rich Bozek (aka Dstar)