October 21, 2009
We have already felt the chilly wind that signals the arrival of late fall. It may be October, but the last week has suggested November weather. The light snow and the strong winds reminds us that that winter will eventually arrive whether we like it or not!
The blowing wind is just a foreshadowing of what we always get in the winter. Winter brings us the strong and drying winds that blow in from the north and or west. The drying winds dry out our skin whenever we are outside for any long period of time. Imagine how it must be to be a plant that must survive those drying winds. Yet our plants do survive outside. They take up water in the fall and store that water in the leaves, twigs and branches. Once the ground freezes, the plants have no way to bring up any additional water. The water that is stored is the water the plants have to lose through those leaves, twigs and branches. Most of our native plants are well adapted to the rigors of our winters. Yet, we have many plants that we use in our landscape that don’t have the evolution to survive without some help from us. These plants would include rose bushes, hydrangeas, rhododendrons, azaleas, holly, boxwood and many other broadleaf evergreens. Yes, there are many winters when these plants survive and spring back to life with the arrival of warmer weather. However, there are many winters where we see damage from the wind come the arrival of spring. In severe winters, we can identify the arrival of spring by the appearance of many dead plants that dried out due to the winter wind damage.
It is hard to know what the winter will dish out to us. We can look at long- range weather reports. We can check what the almanac is predicting for us. Ultimately, we prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It is up to you to prepare your plants for the winter’s drying winds.
Luckily, Mother Nature has provided us with plenty of rain this fall. This allows the plants to take up the water that they need. If the rain stops, you will need to water the damage prone plants that I have listed earlier in the column. But even with all of the rain, it only takes a few months of very strong winter winds to remove all of that stored water. You can help the plants to conserve water by lessening their exposure to the wind.
The tried and true way to cut down on wind damage is to wrap the plants with burlap. You can buy rolls of burlap at our store. The burlap is wrapped around the plants and secured with twine. In very windy areas, it is advisable to put some wooden stakes into the ground around the plants and then wrap the burlap around the stakes and secure the burlap with twine. The stakes can do a better job of helping to hold the burlap in place. Never wrap your plants in plastic. On a sunny winters’ day, the sun will warm up the plants and help to speed up moisture loss. Burlap naturally “breathes” allowing wind to gently pass through and will prevent the build-up of heat.
Some people don’t like the look of burlap-covered shrubs. Instead of applying burlap around the shrubs, you can spray the plants with an anti-desiccant spray. This is a spray that is a wax that is mixed with water. The spray mixture is applied to the leaves and branches of the plant. The spray must be applied when the temperatures are above 40 degrees and the spray must be able to dry during the daylight hours. This combination of temperature and daylight allows the wax to properly set up on the leaves and branches. By applying this spray to your plants, you can cut down on the moisture loss due to the wind by 30 to 50%. This waxy coating helps the plants to conserve that all-important moisture. The anti-desiccant spray comes in a ready to use spray bottle. It also comes in a concentrated form that you can mix with water and spray onto your plants. If you have more than 4 plants to spray, buying a concentrate will save you lots of money.
Sad to say, but winter is coming soon. You need to prepare your plants for the drying winds of winter. Take some time soon to prepare your plants and you will not have to see the arrival of spring signaled by the death of your plants.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.