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Protecting Your Tender Plants This Winter

Do you keep a garden or plant diary as I suggested in a previous blog? Do you know which plants in your landscape are too tender to survive the winter?

If you’ve been keeping a diary, you probably have a list of plants that need extra protection. If you just started keeping one, this will be your baseline year when you will enter in spring those plants that fared well and those that didn’t fare so well.

Different plants have different needs. That’s why you have to track their progress with a diary. Some may appear tender but will survive well under a blanket of snow. However, we may have some very cold weather without a blanket of snow.

Many plants can be protected by adding an extra layer of mulch for the winter. You can apply up to four inches, but be prepared to remove one or two inches in the spring.

Many tender trees, especially young trees that you just planted this year, may need a burlap coat. Just drive poles into the ground around the perimeter of the tree, wrap with burlap and staple it to the poles. Be sure to keep the top open to moisture and sunlight. Usually, evergreens need wrapping since they continue their life functions in winter, albeit at a slower pace. Wrapping may also be needed for both evergreen and deciduous trees planted close to the road to protect them from road salt spray.

Individual or groups of plants can be covered with a breathable, transparent or semi-transparent landscape fabric. The fabric just needs to be held away from the leaves and stems with stakes. You can also buy small hoop houses and garden covers at garden centers and online.

Especially sensitive plants should be dug up, replanted in nursery pots and put in a cold frame. Cold frames can be built out of wood and glass, or you can buy them at garden centers or online. Some are rigid and others are more flexible. Mine is like a tent. It’s plastic on a metal frame. There are zippered panels in front and back to let in air and bigger zippered panels for tending to the plants. It folds up for the summer and in winter is just spread into an “A” frame and staked in the ground with tent pegs.

If you use either a fabric covering or a cold frame, plan to water the plants whenever the temperature gets above freezing for a few days.

Really sensitive plants like succulents should be taken inside for the winter. If you’re shaking your head and wondering where you’ll find the room, you’re not alone. Hardy plants, like yuccas, can be left outside in a sheltered spot, brought indoors or put in a cold frame.

If you have tender plants, you won’t have to wonder what to do with your green thumb all winter. You’ll be following the suggestions above and tending to your tender plants. Good luck.

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