24September 15, 2016

Last week, I was telling you that you would need to protect certain plants in your yard before the winter sets in. The cold and dry air can pull moisture out of the leaves of your broadleaf evergreens. If we have a winter of alternately freezing and then thawing of the ground, it can damage the roots of many of your plants. Let me tell you what you need to do to protect your plants this winter.

The alternate freezing and thawing of the ground can be a major problem for your plants. If you remember back to last winter, the freeze / thaw cycle did damage the roots of perennials and many shrubs. You can minimize the problem by adding a layer of bark mulch over the root zone. This should be done in mid to late October. For years, it was believed that you had to wait until the ground froze before you mulched around your plants. The feeling now is that it is better to mulch earlier rather than later. All it would take is an early snow to mess up your ability to add some extra mulch on the ground above where the majority of the plants roots are in the soil.

The dry winter wind has always been a problem in our area. For many years, I have told people that in the majority of the winters, it is the winter wind and not the cold that can kill the majority of the plants in our area. Any shrub that keeps its leaves in the winter and any of your rose bushes along with most of your hydrangeas are susceptible to damage from the winter winds. You should put in place a plan to minimize the amount of wind that hits your plants in the winter.

There is a spray called Wilt Pruf that you can mix with water and spray onto the leaves and stems of your plants. This spray creates a waxy coating that can cut the moisture loss on your plants by 30 to 50 %. This spray is applied in the fall. If you have a hedge of boxwood in your yard, you will find that this spray will cut down or eliminate the browning of the leaves on your hedge. This spray can be applied to rhododendrons, azaleas, hollies and other broadleaf evergreens. It will also work to protect the branches of your hydrangeas. As a general rule, the branches of the hydrangeas that formed this year are the branches that have the flower buds for next year. If those branches dry out over the winter, you will get new growth from the roots, but you won’t get any flowers. By spraying the branches of the hydrangeas with Wilt Pruf this fall, you will be helping to protect those branches from the drying winter winds.

Wilt Pruf will also help to protect the branches of your rose bushes. Rose bushes have a thin bark and they are prone to drying out over the winter if they are not protected from the wind.

Another tried and true method to protect your plants is to wrap the plants with burlap. The burlap dramatically cuts the winds ability to dry out the plants. The open weave of the burlap does not trap heat from the winter sun. Plastic wrapped around shrubs can cause the plant to lose moisture due to the sun. It is best to never use plastic to wrap your plants. The burlap is wrapped around the plants and held in place by using garden twine to hold the burlap in place. If the wind can be particularly strong where you are putting burlap around your plants, you may want to put some wooden stakes in the ground around the plant and then wrap the burlap around the wooden stakes. You then wrap the garden twine around the burlap.

A few years ago, we found a company that makes a small to large tent like structure that you can put over your shrubs. The tents are reinforced with two rods that crisscross and create a frame that hold the tent upright even under a moderate snow load. The tent comes with four pegs that you drive into the ground to hold the tent in place. Just like the burlap, the tent dramatically cuts down on the ability of the wind to dry out your plants.

Despite all the hoopla, we never know what the winter will bring. We do know that our plants have gone through a dry summer that will make it hard for our plants to survive a windy winter. By protecting your plants this fall, you will be helping to save them or possibly needing to replacing them in the spring.

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

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