59February 24, 2010
On the days when it is not too windy, the winter sun feels so nice and warm. Hopefully, we are beyond the worst of the winter weather.
Speaking of the winter sun and wind, did you know that it can be the worst weather for your shrubs? If you are a regular reader of this column, you will know that I advocate watering your shrubs in the fall. In the fall, your shrubs take up extra water and store that water in the twigs and branches. Broadleaf evergreens store that water in the leaves too. This stored water is then pulled out of the twigs, branches and leaves by the dry winter winds. When we get to late February and early March, the majority of the stored water has been pulled out of the plants. With the ground still frozen, there is no chance for the roots of the plants to take up more water and replenish that moisture that is lost to the winter wind. But the wind isn’t the only concern at this time of the year. The warmer sun along with longer day length means that both the sun and the wind are pulling moisture out of the leaves.
As I said earlier, the roots cannot take up water due to the frozen ground. There are a few steps you can take now to give your shrubs some additional protection from the late winter sun and wind. Many of you sprayed your shrubs with an anti-desiccant spray in the fall. This type of spray forms a waxy film on the leaves, twigs and stems of the plants. Over time this film does wear away. If you can apply a second application now (or even a first application!) it will go a long way towards protecting your shrubs through the rest of the winter. If you apply an anti-desiccant spray now, keep in mind that the temperatures need to be above 40 degrees when you apply the spray. The spray also needs to dry in daylight hours for the spray to set up properly.
Mother Nature can be fickle and we may not get those temperatures of 40 degrees or more. If need be, you can also wrap your shrubs with burlap. The mesh of the burlap won’t hold in heat the way plastic will. If you combined heat, sun and wind, plastic could do more harm than good. A wrap of burlap slows down the force of the wind and tempers the effect of the sun on the plants.
No matter which method you use, a little protection for your plants at this time of the year can make a difference in the survival of your shrubs.
I received a question from Dave in Newburyport. He is having trouble growing peppers in his vegetable garden. He is applying fertilizer to the soil and he is maintaining a proper Ph. Yet the peppers form flowers late and he is not getting any peppers. Here are a few things you can try, Dave. First, peppers are a warm weather plant. If they do not get lots of sun, they won’t grow properly. They are also a plant that need a fair amount of magnesium. If you are using a dolomite lime, that should supply the magnesium. You may also find that using a fertilizer higher in potassium may work better. You also want to make sure that the fertilizer is being applied on a regular schedule.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.