Whether you live in a state where winter hits with full force, or in a Southern state that occasionally experiences a cold snap, it’s necessary to make some adjustments and winterize your garden to ensure that Jack Frost doesn’t destroy your trees, plants and shrubs.
“Just like we need to bundle up in winter, outdoor plants need some extra protection too,” said Tammy Sons, owner of Tennessee Wholesale Nursery, a leading wholesaler of bare root plants that ship throughout the country. “With a little tender loving care, it’s easy to help your plants weather the winter.”
One of the best ways to winterize your garden and protect the plants is to add a layer of mulch. Organic mulch like chopped leaves or straw is ideal for winter mulching. The mulch acts like a blanket and helps prevent frost heaving, a condition where there is upward movement of the ground surface due to ice forming in the underlying soil. Frost heaving can literally uproot plants. The mulch helps keep the soil consistently cold and moisturized, while also providing insulation for whatever is planted. After the first hard freeze of the season apply a three to five inch layer of mulch.
Covering trees, shrubs and plants is one of the simplest ways to keep your foliage safe. Homeowners can use sheets, blankets, drop cloths or a dedicated plant wrap. A covering cocoons plants in a pocket of warm air. The cover needs to be put in place before sundown when a freeze is expected to ensure some of the day’s warmer air is trapped under the cover. Coverings should extend to the soil around whatever is being covered. Don’t attach the cover to the base or a trunk or ground heat won’t reach the plant.
Outdoor landscape needs water even in winter when many plants are dormant. Moist soil retains up to four times more heat than dry soil, and irrigation is important to help root systems grow. Watering at least once a month will help maintain soil and plant health.
For small foliage and plants, small items around the house like milk cartons, soda bottles and paper bags can be used as covers that help the plant retain heat. For a better aesthetic glass or plastic cloches or bell jars are available at garden stores. They can cover an individual plant or a row of planting. They should be placed before dusk and removed after a frost or freeze.
Consider protecting smooth barked, or thin barked trees from sunscald, a condition caused by alternating freezing and thawing of the water in the tree’s bark. Commercial protective material is available to wrap the tree during winter. It’s imperative to remove the wrap in spring or risk damaging the tree. If a tree is new or especially fragile, staking it during the winter months can also help it ride out the winter chill.
Following these easy tips will help your plants, trees and shrubs survive during the winter and emerge in top shape when spring arrives.