Getting Ready for Winter


Most plants do very well without special attention prior to winter. However, there are a few things you can do to assist plants in weathering the storms to come. If you are adventurous and have purchased "borderline" plants of questionable hardiness, getting them through the first season or two will pay great dividends.

Trumpet Vine, and many others of hardier genetics, can be pampered with 6" of mulch just before freeze-up and intentionally piling on snow during the winter. A Trumpet Vine now 40' in height barely made it through the first three winters although snow was plowed over its root area 8' high. Now, hummingbirds fight over the nectar in its long tubular blossoms. Planting heather where snow generally piles high has worked great, also.

Arborvitae, especially globe types, Umbrella Pine, and others prone to damage from snow buildup, can be tied with twine in late fall. Drawing them into a tight mass prevents damage. Remember to remove the twine in the spring and make sure no knots are left around main stems or branches, since this can cause girdling and ultimate death of the extremity.

A-frame type wood covers can be constructed for small plants, especially if snow falling from the roof is a problem. It seems better to plan for this and plant species that can tolerate this situation, such as yews or shrub hydrangea (Annabelle), rather than be forced to go to great lengths protecting poor choices. Another possibility is planting far enough from the house to avoid mow damage.

Fall evergreen plantings, and evergreens such as Rhododendron, can benefit greatly from applications of an anti-desiccant, such as Wilt Pruf or Weather shield, in early November and again in early March. The foliage needs to be thoroughly covered top and bottom. If your concentration is too thick, gradually dilute with water until you can spray evenly. Of course, follow label instructions. This waxy coating prevents drying better than burlap or other covers.

Fruit trees, in particular, and other young trees can be wrapped with a tree guard. Usually, there is a tarpaper-like material sandwiched between paper and this protects from sunscald. This happens in early spring when warm days starts sap flowing and a cold night freezes the sap and causes the bark to split. Tree wrap painted white works best. This material can also help prevent rodent chewing of bark.

Although it has been stressed here before, until you are wondering if I forgot I wrote it in the last column, watering in September and early October is crucial to help plants through winter. Very often it is said, "the plants looked great in the fall" and they "just died" in the spring. What likely happened was the lack of fall watering caused the plant to be so stressed it could not survive the winter. Yet, it wasn't until spring this became evident, much like Christmas trees don't turn brown until the weather warms.

With a little fall preparation, your plants will reward you with robust good growth next season.


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Poland Spring, Maine
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