Preparing Your Plants For Winter

November 13, 2012

Let’s talk about watering your ornamental landscape plants during the late fall, a time when most people tend to forget about the landscape in colder climates  It’s completely understandable that homeowners would forget about watering the plants when it’s getting quite cold out, leaves are rapidly falling off the trees, and lets face it, people are thinking of the upcoming Holidays and life indoors. With that being said, there are some general guidelines that may help your landscape plants through the winter, leaving you with healthier and better looking gardens.

For many plants, having water available during the time the ground is starting to freeze is crucial. To use a very simple analogy, think of a steak in a zip lock bag getting freezer burn. The reason it gets freezer burn is because within the bag there were pockets of air which upon contact with the meat and freezing temps, dries out the surface of causing crystallization on the surface and damaging the cell structure. Without a lengthy and geeky scientific explanation of sublimation, it is this same scenario that can harm dry plant material during the freezing of the ground.

Sometimes mother nature takes perfect care of our landscape plants in the fall, and sometimes she doesn’t. So what do you do? Water your plants! As a general rule of thumb, when most or all of the leaves have fallen off the trees, and temps are dropping (mid 40′s) water your landscape plants deeply so that they are moist when the ground freezes. Around here, most people have had their irrigation systems shut down long before this important time of watering, so it normally requires manually watering your plants. As with gardening in general, it certainly pays to pay attention to the weather during late fall. If you are experiencing some rainfall and the ground is saturated, great! If it’s been unusually dry then you are better off spending a little time protecting your investment by watering.

Since we are on the topic of plant care in the off season, here is one other tip that can be quite useful. During those first few snowfalls when you are clearing off the driveway and sidewalks, direct the snow to cover the landscape plants you may have along your sidewalk and front entry. I say this because the hardiness rating of a plant takes into account having normal snow cover to protect it from extreme cold.

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