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Winter Protection Can Save Your Plants!

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Winter’s chilling winds and temperature fluctuations can take a toll on your ornamental shrubs and trees, anything that’s exposed above ground can be damaged during our severe winter months. There are several strategies that may help protect your valuable landscape.

First: Stabilize Soil Temperatures

Add mulch around the root zones of sensitive plants that tend to dieback significantly each year (like Hydrangeas and Rhododendrons). Use something that remains relatively light and airy like long-needled pine needles, straw, oak leaves, fibrous cedar mulch and the like.

Avoid using materials that tend to collapse and mat together like maple leaves, newspaper, pine bark or fine particle mulches. When wet, these fail to hold sufficient air to provide insulation and may actually suffocate roots.

Using a low garden fence, rabbit netting or chicken wire create a circular “mulch corral” around the base of the plant beneath the outer “dripline” where the majority of the roots are located. Loosely fill with your mulch, six inches deep, to protect the roots from freeze / thaw cycles which play havoc with root systems.  If you have vole problems apply an appropriate vole repellent around the trunk prior to mulching. These protective “mulch corrals” should be removed in the spring once warmer weather arrives.

Second: Lock in Moisture

Air movement over a leaf surface removes moisture and over time can cause damage when the plant cannot replenish it, as frequently occurs during our winter months.  This desiccation can be prevented by spraying an anti-desiccant/transpirant plant protector. This may be done any time after leaf drop on deciduous trees and shrubs or after temperatures drop below freezing at night on needled and broadleaf evergreens. Apply when daytime temperatures are above freezing to allow the protective coating to dry. This locks in the moisture and greatly reduces “winter burn” injury caused by wind. It will also help protect against winter sunscald, salt and sleet damage.

Third: Protect from Strong Winds

Plants that are situated where they are exposed to strong winds, like up near the lake, will benefit from the installation of wind breaks. This may be burlap wrapped around a specimen or stretched between several stakes upwind of the plant. There are also “Shrub Guards” or “Shrub Jackets” that are designed to be placed over shrubs like a bag. These protect from deer browsing, road salt, as well as damage from the elements.

Utilizing these strategies individually or together will greatly reduce the damage to your plants this winter. As with many things horticultural, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Stop by the store and let one of our green thumb specialists show these products, explain their applications and help you manage your ornamental shrubs this winter.

Success with your gardening Naturally!

Written by Rick Stecher

Garden Center Manager

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