November 30, 2016
I guess you could say that we have been lucky in not having any snow so far this month. If all the extended forecasts are correct, we may be in for a normal snowfall this winter.
Before the snow flies, you need to start / finish your winter preparation for some of the plants in your yard. Generally speaking, your shrubs can be damaged by the cold winter wind. It is usually not the cold wind that damages your plants. It is the fact that the cold wind is also a very dry wind. The dryness of the air pulls moisture out of your shrubs. This can be a major problem for any of your shrubs that keep their leaves all winter. There are also plants that lose their leaves that can be easily damaged by the dry wind. These plants usually have a thin bark that allows the wind to pull moisture out of the shrubs. The two most common of these shrubs are the hydrangeas and most of your rose bushes. If your hydrangea canes dry out, most varieties will not flower next year. If the canes on the rose bushes dry out, the plant may die.
You can wrap your susceptible shrubs with burlap or use any number of plant covers to protect your plants. Covering the top of the plant will help to minimize damage from the wind. Luckily, we have had a fair amount of rain this fall so your plants have had an opportunity to take up and store water in the branches of the shrubs. This will allow the plants to lose some moisture without there being damage to the shrub if you cover the plant.
An additional concern for your plants is the damage to the roots of your plants. In the winter, the ground usually freezes. When the ground freezes, your plants are slightly lifted out of the ground. This lifting breaks some of the roots. If the ground stays frozen, this is really no big deal. When the ground thaws in the spring, the plants settle back down into the ground and new roots form before the warm weather comes back. The problem comes about when you have periods of freezing and then thawing of the soil all winter long. This alternate freezing and thawing can damage roots to the point that come the spring, your shrubs won’t have enough roots left to allow the plant to survive. To prevent this from happening, you should add a layer of mulch around the base of your plants. The mulch should extend out as far as the branches of your plants. This layer of mulch will act like insulation. This mulch will slow down the freezing of the soil and it will prevent the soil from thawing out if the weather decides to warm up in the winter. Mulching around the base of your plant is the best protection against damage from the freeze / thaw cycle. You want to have about 3 inches of mulch around the base of your plants. You can use bark mulch or you can use straw or salt marsh hay. The advantage of using bark mulch is that you don’t have to remove it in the spring. You can just spread the bark mulch out in the spring when you are mulching around your shrubs or perennials. Many people ask about using leaves as mulch. The issue with leaves is that they can blow away and or as the leaves get wet from snow or rain, they tend to pack down minimizing the amount of insulation that will protect the roots.
If you prepare your shrubs and perennial beds for winter you will minimize the amount of damage to your plants. Do this preparation now before the snow flies!
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.