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Preparing for Old Man Winter

Question:

I was caught unprepared by the early snowstorm that hit our area weekend before last. What should I do to protect my garden before the next round of winter weather hits?

Answer:

Over the years, I've learned that getting ready for Old Man Winter's visits can save me a lot of time and worry. But, just like you, I sometimes am surprised by an unexpected storm. Here are some tips that may be helpful to you as you prepare your garden for the cold days ahead.

Start by mulching your flower beds - you might be surprised how much protection a layer of mulch will provide your plants over the winter. You can use bark, straw, pine needles, or leaves. I even use branches from my old Christmas tree and sections of my evergreen garlands.

In my vegetable garden, I like using frost blankets to protect young plants. You can also keep winter vegetables growing longer by using a moveable cold frame.

Trees and shrubs seem to be the most susceptible plants in my garden to winter damage and the most expensive to replace.

The weight of ice combined with the force of strong winds can literally uproot younger, newly planted trees. About the best thing to do for them is to make sure they are well staked and guyed.

For larger trees and shrubs, what you want to do is help them at their weakest point, and that's always where a branch departs from the tree trunk, especially when you have two branches of equal diameter at a close distance to each other. This point is where trees seem to inevitably split. The branch collar, which supports a limb, can't wrap itself around three hundred and sixty degrees, making these areas very susceptible to high winds and the accumulation of heavy ice. You can increase the strength of this area by wrapping the tree with rope and anchoring it to a wall or guying and staking it to the ground.

I've learned that bundling certain hedges and large shrubs with rope can keep the snow from weighing down the plant's limbs. And I cover the tops of my tree roses with burlap. Simply knocking the snow off trees and shrubbery is also effective. It will keep plants from bending and breaking, but don't try to knock the ice off your plants. Let the ice naturally melt to avoid damaging limbs and foliage.

These are just a few suggestions that you can put to use that will take the worry out of winter.