In the next few weeks we should be assessing our gardens and taking note of plants that should be protected during the coming winter. Whether it is a newly planted shrub, a tender evergreen or plants that are marginally hardy in Niagara protection is key to their survival. Here are 5 easy techniques for winter protection:
Before protecting any plant make sure you keep your garden well watered up until ground freeze. Pay special attention to evergreens and newly planted trees/shrubs to ensure they survive the winter.
When considering which plants should be protected in your garden it’s best to understand what you are protecting from.In most cases there are 3 main culprits of winter damage
- drying winter winds
- salt damage
- heavy snow
Newly planted evergreens are especially prone to winter damage and as a rule of thumb it is best to protect them for at least the first winter. Winter winds can be very drying on coniferous evergreens and broadleaf evergreens like cedars, rhododendrons, holly and boxwood. If you have any of these planted in an area that receives high wind or is close to roads and sidewalks you should consider protecting them. Have you ever planted an evergreen and the following spring it turns brown? That’s winter damage. Here are some techniques you can use to protect your plants.
The best way to wrap plants is to use stakes, burlap or winter cloth and twine. We recommend using stakes around a plant rather than wrapping burlap directly onto foliage. If we have a warm winter burlap too close to foliage can become too warm and create a great place for mold.
There are two options for wrapping a plant. You can either wrap a plant individually or create a temporary fence. A fence works great if one side of the plant is protected by a structure or if the wind only hits one side. Whether you decide on individually wrapping or creating a fence we recommend putting stake or bamboo into the ground now(Early November) before the ground freezes. When we experience heavy freezes you can burlap/winter wrap the structure you’ve built. If you create a fence with wooden stakes you can easily staple burlap or winter cloth. When wrapping individually you can put 4 stakes around small shrubs and wrap burlap around stakes and staple; remember to leave some breathing room in between the plant and burlap for air circulation.
If the plant is tall you can use 3-4 bamboo pieces and tie them together at the top creating a tee pee structure. Starting from the ground up wrap burlap around bamboo and spiral up the structure. To hold it in place as you wrap try using clothes pins. When done you should twine the burlap into place; start by tying twine to the bottom of a bamboo stake and spiral to the top and then back down again fastening the twine to the bottom of a stake.
If you have plants close to a sidewalk or road you may consider creating a fence along the exposed side to prevent any salt from damaging the plant. Salt can cause drying at excessive rates and lead to plant death.
If you have any evergreens like globe cedars, pyramidal evergreens or small nootka’s with arching branches you should protect branches from heavy snow. Often times we experience snow load on branches which can cause them to break;sometimes globe cedars can split in half. An easy way to prevent this is by taking twine and tying it to the base of the trunk and spiral your way up the plant, gently bringing in the branches closer to the trunk as you go. You don’t have to do this tightly, you just want to bring the branches in enough so the surface area is smaller for snow to load on.
Pre-formed cones are a super easy way to cover new or tender plants for the winter. An alternative to wrapping and mounding pre-formed cones have the easiest installation. To accommodate many plants we have them available in a mini great to cover things like roses, new perennials or small heathers and a large size for plants like holly ,rhododendrons, and boxwoods. Water the plant,place the cone over the plant and put a stone on top of the cone—-done. This works well if you have a few individual plants to protect.
Mulching is a great way to protect tender perennials, marginally hardy plants or anything that you have planted after September. With our winters we have repeated freeze and thaw cycles which can literally push the plant crown out of the ground which has the possibility of killing even the hardiest of newly planted plants.
Mulch at a minimum 4″-maximum of 8″– when the ground freezes and before snowfall. Remember to pull out this thick insulating mulch in early spring.
Many people are familiar with mounding roses in the winter but mounding can be used on any delicate shrub. As a rule of thumb a delicate shrub can be described as one that has the possibility to die back to the ground each year. The winter of 2015 Hydrangeas were hit very hard, you may consider mounding them this season. The purpose of mounding is to protect the first 8″ of the plant. This way if the winter gets too cold and some branches experience die back you will still have a good base for new growth to start from in spring. Mound with a soil or compost that provides good drainage and mound up the plant anywhere from 6-8″.Mounding works well with hydrangeas, roses and butterfly bushes. Like mulching do not forget to rake out the mound you have built in spring.