Love your plants, but they hate the cold? Whether you have an outdoor garden or potted plants, follow these tips to protect your blooms from the winter cold.
As the temperatures drop and the days grow short, you should be thinking about how to winterize your plants. What's the best way to protect your greenery from colder weather?
Many of your established plants don't need much special attention to survive the winter. However, for tender plants and new additions to your garden or landscaping, winterizing is essential.
You can ensure the survival of even your hardiest plants for many seasons to come by taking a few preventative measures.
Know your temperature zone
Knowing your area’s average annual temperature extremes is essential to successful winterizing. This information is readily available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website — just look for your state and county.
The best way to begin the winterizing process is by mulching. Mulch insulates the soil and prevents frost heave, a condition that occurs when soil repeatedly freezes and thaws. Plant heave exposes plant crowns and roots to freezing air and drying winds.
When applying mulch, aim for a layer that’s three to five inches deep, or even deeper for colder regions. Use material that won’t compact. Good candidates are bark, leaf litter, clean hay, straw or even recycled rubber.
Also, while mulching, trim your perennials back and pull up the annuals to eliminate hiding places for pests and plant diseases.
Get rid of the intruders
Remove any weeds and place them in a sealed container for disposal, not in your compost pile. Weeds compete with desirable plants for precious natural resources and are often more difficult to eradicate once they re-establish themselves in the spring. Weeds are also often a sign of underlying issues with your soil. For example, soil needs air if it is to remain healthy. Soils compacted by weeds and their roots can become choked.
Protect the potted plants
Before the first freeze, bring in any potted tropical and semi-tropical plants you’ve enjoyed outside during the spring and summer. Before doing so, however, it’s a good idea to apply a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to remove pests and their eggs from the plants. Once indoors, give your plants as much light as you can, but be careful not to overwater. Plants grow slower during winter and consequently don't require as much water. If a few leaves turn yellow and drop, don't panic. The dimmer indoor light means the plants don’t need as many leaves as they would if they were outdoors.
Take care of the bulbs
Some plants grow from special underground structures known as bulbs. These bulbs contain the nutrients the plant needs to thrive on a seasonal basis. Most bulbs you'll find in your yard flower in the spring and die back to ground level in the fall. Daffodils, tulips, crocuses and irises all grow from bulbs. Although bulbs have a reputation for being easy to maintain, they do have temperature limits and need protection from winter's freeze.
Wait until the foliage yellows. Then dig up the bulbs, remove any clinging dirt and then set the bulbs out to dry. (Old newspapers are great for this purpose.) Bulbs need about two weeks to complete this process and enter dormancy. After two weeks, place the bulbs in a wooden or cardboard box. Take care to separate the bulbs as much as possible to prevent the spread of disease or rot. Cover the bulbs with peat moss, sawdust or sand until they’re ready to be replanted.
Save the shrubs
Tender shrubs should be wrapped in burlap or agricultural cloth to protect them from a prolonged freeze. Avoid using plastic as it does not breathe and can create greenhouse conditions that literally cook your plants. Remove the burlap or cloth when the temperature starts to rise to avoid overheating.
Protect young trees
Don’t forget the pots
Don’t forget any empty clay pots left behind outdoors. Clay pots breathe, absorbing and releasing water, and that’s why plants grow so well in them. When they freeze, they develop cracks and can eventually shatter. Bring them indoors for the winter or store them somewhere outdoors where they won’t get wet.
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