Winter weather is upon us and our beloved plants can wither away and die unless we take some precautionary steps. When the weather suddenly turns cold, early-flowering and tender plants may need special protection to avoid damage by freezing temperatures. There are several ways you can provide winter protection, including mulching, moving them into a warm shed or house, or by covering them up.MULCHING: This is one of the best ways to protect plant roots. Bark, straw, sawdust, peat moss, leaves and even grass clippings are the most common mulching materials. Remove the weeds (if possible) before applying the mulch. As a rule the mulch should be about 2 inches in depth. However, there are exceptions that will be stated a little later in this information bulletin. Keep the mulch an inch or two away from the trunk or main stem of the trees and shrubs. Again, there are exceptions, such as roses and cane berries, where the mulch is actually mounded over the canes. Then when spring arrives, after all danger of frost has passed, these mulching materials are pulled away. Occasionally check through the mulching material, to be sure that moisture is getting to the soil below. This is especially important for plants that are situated under the eaves of the house or under tall evergreens where the soil is likely to dry out. It is important to note, that the combination of dry soil and cold temperatures can cause serious freeze damage to garden trees and shrubs. In fact, in some of the drier areas of the garden, such as under the eaves or under tall evergreens, you may need to water in mid-December or mid-January, if you find the soil dry.
COVERING: This is one of the most effective ways of protecting the foliage of broadleaf evergreen shrubs. Rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and early flowering plants will often benefit from being covered with some type of cloth material during extremely cold weather. Start by placing three or four stakes around the plant being protected. Next drape some type of cloth material over the stakes, being careful that the cloth does not come in contact and freeze on the leaves. Notice I said cloth material, do not use clear polyethylene for this job, as it not only cuts off air to the plant, it also acts much like a greenhouse, taking plants from nightly lows to high daily temperature in a relatively short time period. This rapid temperature change can cause serious freeze damage or may be fatal to plants.
Any type of covering should only be left in place during the cold spell. As soon as the weather moderates or it begins to rain, remove the covering completely. However, leave the stakes in case it gets cold again.
Burlap, old moving blankets, sheets, Reemay or similar cloth or fabric materials are the best types to use as a cover over plants.
MOVING THEM: This is also another effective way of protecting the foliage of generally all plants that are potted. Move them into a garage, shed, patio or inside your home. Make sure that they receive light during the daylight hours.