Friday, October 14, 2016

7 Ways to Protect Your Plants This Winter

It’s already mid-October, and that means it’s time to start thinking about how to protect your cherished garden during the cold winter months. Whether you relish this time of year or long for spring to arrive, many of your plants will likely need some added protection to survive – so don’t leave them hanging. Taking a couple of simple steps will keep your lovely greenery intact come spring so you can enjoy your garden once again and not take repeated trips to the nursery for a brand new collection.

Here, we provide you with some tried-and-tested tips and tricks for plant survival through Mother Nature’s harshest months. Choose your favorite method of winter plant protection, or try them all!

1) Lay a thick layer of wood chips or straw over flower and perennial beds. This should be about 6 to 8 inches thick, providing some protection so that your beds bloom again in the spring. Remember, raised beds allow more cold air to come through the sides of the box, so this is an important area to protect.

2) Mulch your plants. That’s right: mulch is now a verb and refers to removing the old mulch from around your plants and adding a fresh 3-inch layer. Be sure to leave a ½-inch space around each plant’s stem for air circulation and to prevent rot. No plant wants to rot their way through the cold winter – it’s already tough enough.

3) Water your plants before a freeze, ideally early in the day so your plants have time to absorb it. This sounds counter-intuitive, given that being cold and wet sounds much worse than just being cold, but, in fact, cold air is usually very dry, so it will absorb the moisture faster than the plant can absorb it. Also, plant cells that are full with water will fare better against colder temperatures than otherwise because water can act as an insulator.

4) Also before a freeze, place plant covers for winter using, for instance, a piece of burlap or the like. These can stay on top of the plants – including their entire root zone – for the duration of the freeze but should be removed again during the daytime or once it starts to rain. You can bind or tie the material down, but try to avoid attaching them to or hanging them on the plant, as this can cause damage. Instead, stick stakes in the ground around the plant so you can hang the covering on those. You can also wrap burlap around the trunks of smaller trees for added protection.

5) Place a screen or shield of some sort around your plants on the southwest side to protect them from fierce winds and snow, as this is the direction from which most damage usually comes. 

6) Don’t feel bad if you don’t do anything before a couple fluffy inches of snow fall – that snow will insulate the ground around your plants. As long as it’s not heavy, wet snow, which will weigh down your plants and risk breaking their branches or stems. 

7) For potted plants, the exotic ones from tropical climates should probably be brought inside – say, to your bathroom (as long as there’s light) where they’ll soak up the moisture from your showers. But, for those that are hardy enough to stay outside all winter long, give them some protection. This may be physically wrapping them for an extra layer of warmth with, say, a blanket, towel or piece of foam. Or perhaps moving the plant to a more protected, shielded area, whether a corner or a garage. It’s even possible to plant them directly in the ground or bury them, pot and all. 

So there you have it – an array of solutions to your winter garden worries. Spend some time planning what makes the most sense for your yard, and then put those plans into action before it’s too late. Your spring self will appreciate your efforts, and so will your plants. Feel free to add any additional tips in the comments below!