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Cold Weather: Protecting Your Plants

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Cold Weather: Protecting Your Plants

MULCHING:
This is one of the best ways to protect plant roots. Bark, straw, sawdust, peat moss, leaves and even grass  clippings are the most common mulching materials. Remove the weeds (if possible) before applying the  mulch. As a rule the mulch should be about 2 inches in depth.

However, there are exceptions that will be  stated a little later in this information bulletin.   Keep mulch an inch or two away from the trunk or main stem of the trees and shrubs. Again, there are exceptions, such as roses and cane berries, where the mulch is actually mounded over the canes. Then when spring arrives, after all danger of frost has passed, these mulching materials are pulled away.

Occasionally check through the mulching material, (about once a month) to be sure that moisture is getting to the soil below. This is especially important for plants that are situated under the eaves of the house or  under tall evergreens where the soil is likely to dry out. It is important  to note, that the combination of dry soil and cold temperatures can cause serious freeze damage to garden trees and shrubs. In fact, in some of the drier areas of the garden, such as under the eaves or under tall evergreens, you may need to water in mid-December or mid-January, if you find the soil dry.

COVERING:
This is one of the most effective ways of protecting the foliage of broadleaf evergreen shrubs. Rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and early flowering plants will often benefit from being covered with some type of cloth material during extremely cold weather. Start by placing three or four stakes around the plant being protected. Next drape some type of cloth material over the stakes, being careful that the cloth  does not come in contact and freeze on the leaves.

Notice I said cloth material, do not use clear polyethylene for this job, as it not only cuts off air to the plant, it also acts much like a greenhouse, taking plants from nightly lows to high daily temperature in a relatively short time period. This rapid temperature change can cause serious freeze damage or may be fatal to  plants.

Any type of covering should only be left in place during the cold spell. As soon as the weather moderates or it  begins to rain, remove the covering completely. However, leave the stakes in case it gets cold again. Burlap, old moving blankets, sheets, Reemay or similar cloth or fabric materials are the best types to use as a cover  over plants.

LIGHT SNOW COVER:
Mother Nature actually provides the best blanket of protection in the form of a light snow. Up to two or three inches of snow not only insulates the ground around your plants it also provides a blanket of protection over the leaves. On the other hand, it should be noted, that a heavy wet snow can cause considerable damage. As it tends to place to much weight on the leaves and branches, often causing them to break. And, in some cases even causing trees to break off. So if the snowfall
is wet and heavy, you should make it a point to shake-off the excess snow before any damage occurs. Try to do this carefully so some snow remains as a winter protection.



 
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