27 November 25, 2008
The weather outside is getting colder. Morning temperatures in the upper 20’s take some time to get my old bones acclimated to. Oh well, spring is only 6 months away.
Take a moment to think about some of our past winters. You would go outside and the wind would beat against you. You come back inside and your face feels so dry. The wind just pulls the moisture off of your skin. The same wind pulls moisture out of the leaves of your broadleaf evergreens. Rhododendrons, holly, boxwood and mountain laurel all can get damaged by wind pulling moisture out of the leaves. If it turns out to be a winter with lots of wind, you will see damage on the leaves come spring. In extreme cases, branches of plants or entire plants can be dried out by the wind. You have invested a lot of money in landscaping your yard. The $ 20 rhododendron that you planted 5 years ago is now worth 100’s of dollars. If you had to dig up all those plants and replace them, you could spend a small fortune bringing your yard back to it original shape.
This is why it is so important to water your trees and shrubs in the fall. In the fall, plants will take up water and store it in the twigs, branches and leaves. This stored water can then be pulled out by the wind without doing a great amount of harm to the plant. If Mother Nature doesn’t give us a soaking rain once a week, we need to provide those plants with water. If you have put the hose away for the winter, shame on you. You need to do the watering right up until the ground freezes. Watering plants in the fall is one of those”must do” chores in the fall.
Try as you might, you can faithfully water your plants and still get damage if we get a winter with very little snow cover but lots of wind. To offset most loses in life, you buy insurance. There is “insurance” for your plants that can help them to survive a bad winter. Your broadleaf evergreens need to be sprayed with an anti desiccant spray. This spray is a wax that is mixed with water and sprayed onto the plants. The wax forms a film on the leaf that cuts moisture loss through the leaves by 30 to 50%. Anti desiccant sprays need to be applied when the temperature is above 40 degrees. It must also be allowed to dry in daylight hours because the ultraviolet light helps to set up the wax. Applying an anti desiccant spray to rose bushes also helps the roses to survive a windy winter.
If you get busy in the fall and miss the temperatures that are warm enough to apply an anti desiccant spray, you can wrap the shrubs with burlap. Burlap has enough of an open weave to prevent heat from building up under the burlap. The burlap forms a physical barrier that slows the wind, preventing the wind from pulling moisture out of the leaves. Burlap may not look pretty in the winter, but a shrub that has died from drying out looks even worse come spring.
You have spent a lot of time and money to make your yard look nice. You need to protect that investment by protecting those shrubs from the winter’s drying winds.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.