Keeping your perennials and other landscape plants alive
throughout long harsh winters is possible with these simple tips
I don’t know about the weather where you are, but here in the Pacific Northwest it’s fall for sure and good.
If you tend a garden like I do, whether it’s in a small suburban backyard or out on an off-grid homestead, then you know it’s high time to start readying your plants for the colder months ahead. By this time of the year, you’ve probably already tackled some of the most pressing seasonal tasks, like weeding, pulling out spent crops from the vegetable garden and getting your burn pile all ready to go.
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Fall is also a great time to plant new perennial plants and trees. The cooler weather gives their roots time to develop before winter sets in for good. Jasper and I dug up and planted some vine maple seedlings, as well as a Japanese maple, and after a little bit of transplant shock, they are doing well.
What I need to start thinking about, though, is how to keep those newly planted trees alive through the cold months ahead. Most plants are pretty good at withstanding cold, but some do struggle to reach the spring. I’ve lost at least one or two casualties to cold weather each year, and I know I’m not the only one.
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Well, this year I am bound and determined that I’m not going to lose those baby maples! This year I’m going to be ready!
By preparing for the cold before it happens, you and I can keep our landscape plants thriving during the worst of the frost. It’s not as easy as bringing them into the garage, the way we do with smaller potted plants. But, luckily, it’s not that hard, either!
Here are some tips to help protect plants in the winter:
Insulate to protect plants in the winter
Adding a nice thick layer of wood mulch is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do. I know this is usually a job people do in the spring to suppress weed growth during the warmer months. But it can also work as a fantastic source of insulation during the cold weather. Mulch also stops the ground from freezing and damaging the roots of new and established plants. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be ordering a late mulch delivery as soon as you can.
Other types of insulation include:
- Straw (hay will absorb moisture and break down faster, so I would avoid it)
- Pine needles
- Evergreen boughs (a great way to recycle those Christmas trees!)
With a nice covering of mulch there’s a much smaller chance of cold creeping in to the plant’s roots and doing the most damage, so make sure to pile it on before the frosts come.
Use literal blankets
Dormant plants will usually weather the weather just fine. If the temperatures turn extreme though, you can always wrap up any tender or young plants with actual blankets for the garden. Frost barrier fabric wraps, burlap, or even old carpet scraps can work wonders for reducing damage from frost.
If you have young fruit trees, it’s good practice to do this before any cold snaps where the temperature is expected to dip below freezing. Just make sure to remove the wrapping after the temperatures normalize though, because you can bet that bugs and other pests will crawl in there and colonize if it’s left on.
If you have any large pots left outside that were too heavy to move in, it’s also a good idea to wrap them up with burlap or blankets. That way they won’t crack during the cold.
Protect plants in the winter by tying them up!
I don’t need to do this where I live, but if you’re in a snowy climate you might want to start using twine to tie tree branches closer to their trunks to reduce the damage cold and frost can do.
Snow is usually a good insulator in and of itself, but heavy pileups on weak branches can lead to death for a whole plant. One snapped branch can cause frost damage all the way down to the roots! To make sure this doesn’t happen, gently tie up any long limbs on plants so that snow will fall off and pile up around the trunk or base instead of on the branches.
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It may seem early to be thinking about snow and freezing temperatures, but preparing now to protect plants in the winter will make it far easier to keep your trees and shrubs alive. I know that I, for one, will be doing what it takes to keep those baby maples of ours warm and healthy, even if it means dressing them up in old coats and carpet scraps!
What are some things you’re doing to get ready for and protect plants in the winter?
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