44 October 14, 2006

As much as I hate to admit it, we do have to start thinking about the arrival of winter. Winter, naturally, brings a change in weather. For the gardener, this means worrying about the survival of your shrubs. If you are a regular reader of this column, you know that it is seldom the cold that kills trees and shrubs. The main reason plants die in our area during the winter is the very dry wind that constantly blows through our yards.


There are certain plants that are easily desiccated or dried out by the dry winter wind. Any broadleaf evergreen, rose bushes, hydrangea, and any other shrub that has a thin bark. As the dry wind blows, the wind pulls moisture out of the plant. This can happen through the leaves or it can happen through the thin bark. During the winter, the frozen ground does not allow the roots of the plant to supply water to the plant. If the wind is severe, it can pull all of the moisture out of the leaves and branches. The result is dead leaves and branches on your plant.


You need to do all you can to stop this winter wind damage. The most important thing to do is to make sure that your plants are getting the water they need during the fall. Plants need a through soaking each week up until the ground freezes. I have told people that if the ground is still thawed during December, you should still be watering your plants. The plants take up and store extra water in the leaves and stems during the fall. This allows the plant to lose moisture during the windy months and still survive the winter.


The other thing you should do is to physically protect the plants from the effects of the wind. The traditional way of doing this is to wrap the plants with burlap. Most garden centers will sell rolls of burlap that you can use for this purpose. You can wrap the shrub with the burlap and hold the burlap in place with garden twine. You can also place stakes in the ground around the shrub and then wrap the burlap around the stakes. The burlap can be held in place with twine or staples from a staple gun.


Some people do not like the looks of burlap wrapped shrubs. There is an alternative to this method. You can apply an anti desiccant spray to the leaves and stems of the plant. This spray is a wax that coats the leaves and stems. This waxy coating cuts down on moisture loss by 30 to 50 %. You can buy this spray as a pre-mix in a trigger spray bottle. If you have many shrubs to do, you can buy a concentrate. The concentrate is mixed with water and sprayed onto the shrubs using a compression sprayer.  The coating will naturally disintegrate in the spring.


Protecting your vulnerable shrubs from winter winds is critical to the survival of those shrubs. This is a project that you need to be doing soon. Anti-desiccant sprays need to be applied to the shrubs when the temperatures are above 40 degrees. Once we are past that point, you will need to use burlap to protect the plants.


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

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