18October 1, 2014

Last winter was tough on many of our shrubs and trees. Many of you saw damage to the leaves of your rhododendrons, hollies and boxwood. A common lament this summer was that the hydrangeas didn’t bloom very well. All these problems were ultimately caused by the polar vortex of last winter. The vortex brought to us very cold weather but more importantly it brought to us very dry air. This dry air pulled the moisture out of the leaves and flower buds of our plants. People will tell me that it is suppose to be a bad winter. They will ask me what I think the weather will be for this winter. My stock answer is” Check with me in March and I can give you an accurate forecast.” When I was in the Boy Scouts, they had a motto. The motto was “Be prepared.” It is time for you to be prepared and get busy protecting your plants.

In order for your plants to survive the winter, the plants take up water in the fall and store that water in the leaves and branches. In the case of hydrangeas and rose bushes, the water is stored in the canes of the plant. In case you haven’t dug around in the garden, the soil is very dry. We haven’t had a lot of rain in many months. If nature isn’t providing rain, you should be watering your plants. Your plants need a good soaking each week from now until the ground freezes. If the weather gives us a soaking rain, then you won’t need to water. Otherwise, don’t put that hose away too early. If you don’t get that water onto your plants, we will have a repeat of last winters’ damage. How severe the damage will be determined by the amount of dry wind we get this winter. I cannot stress enough that your plants are very much in danger of major damage or even having your plants dying if they do not get the water they need this fall.

The wind may still do some damage to your plants even if the plants get the water they need this fall. The damage usually occurs in late February when the ground is still frozen and the plants have lost most of the stored water. There are methods you can use to protect your plants for the winter. For many years, people have wrapped their plants in burlap to protect their plants from the winter winds. The burlap is wrapped around the plants and then it is held in place by wrapping garden twine around the plant. You can also put wooden stakes in the ground and then wrap the burlap around the stakes. Wrapping the plant with burlap can also help plants that can be damaged by snow or ice. The burlap helps to prevent damage to brittle branches. The burlap is usually applied in late October after the plants go dormant. We carry rolls of burlap at the store. It comes in various lengths and widths. We also carry the wooden stakes if you need them.

Another way to protect your plants is by applying an anti-desiccant spray to the leaves and stems of your plants. This spray is a wax that is mixed with water and then you apply it to the leaves and stems. It comes as a ready to use spray and you can also buy concentrates that you mix with water and then apply to the plants. This type of spray has a proven track record of cutting moisture loss by 30 to 50%. We carry this product in the store. The spray should be applied in the fall when temperatures are above 40 degrees and it does need to dry in daylight.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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