Although we had some snow on the ground for much of November and December, snow was scarce as the New Years approached. If this continues, does it have consequences for our gardens? Yes he can.
If we have bare soil and a very cold winter, the roots will see cooler temperatures than they would like. Like that pink fluffy fiberglass in the walls of our homes, snow is a great insulator. Snow traps tiny air pockets, retaining heat from the ground and preventing freezing northerly winds from stealing heat from the ground.
For lack of snow, what to do? The fall leaves are stunning. If you have a bunch of leaves somewhere, consider moving some around to distribute them around your most tender plants, especially those planted this year. Perennials and woody plants are most vulnerable to cold their first winter.
I have a tree peony that I planted this year, which is quite an expensive plant. Unlike the common perennial peony, the stems of the plant are woody and do not die to the ground each winter. And the flowers are much more spectacular: up to a foot in diameter.
I did two things for this: I mulched around the base with chopped leaves, and I wrapped burlap around to protect the stem itself and the flower buds that are already in place for next summer. This will help prevent the cold January winds from affecting it. We have done the same for the tender old roses, with great success. Breathable synthetic material shrub jackets are also available instead of making your own from burlap.
I’m worried about voles chewing on the burlap, nesting inside, then eating the tender bark of my young tree peony. I had “Bobex” brand deer repellent and decided to spray the burlap. It’s made of rotten eggs and other nasty stuff and might deter voles.
My wife, Cindy, and I recently used burlap to keep hungry deer from eating the leaves and branches of a pair of large yew trees. I first drove four hardwood stakes one inch in diameter into the ground around each six foot high shrub. I stood on a stepladder and used a 3 pound short-handled hammer to drive the stakes about a foot in. Then we draped the burlap over the top of the stakes and stapled the burlap to hold it in place on windy days. We used a heavy duty carpenter stapler as a desktop stapler would not work. We’ve done this before, and deer can’t make it to one of their favorite winter meals. The packaging we made was opened all the way up because deer cannot reach that height, but smaller plants need to be completely wrapped.
Another danger to plants is heavy snow and ice falling from roofs or being pushed by snowplows. Last winter I made three A-frame plywood protectors for small shrubs to protect them. Each used four stakes and two pieces of plywood. At the top of each stake, I drilled a hole and slipped a piece of wire that connected the two stakes through both. This is a cheap way to avoid the cost of the hinges. And it works very well ! If the ground isn’t frozen, drive the stakes into the ground, but if it’s frozen, it should still stand up well.
Later, after the holidays, recycle your evergreen tree in the garden. After removing the decorations, I use my pruning shears to cut all the branches. It helps me find each little ornament, then I have a nice stack of evergreen branches to use around or on tender plants. Branches are good windbreaks for small shrubs and trap snow during winter thaw when resting on tender perennials. If you’re using a fake tree, watch for abandoned trees waiting at the curb and hang one (or more) for use in the garden.
Composting in the winter is a chore that some gardeners don’t bother to do. But you should, because it’s a waste to put your moldy broccoli in the landfill. For many gardeners, the compost pile is a considerable distance from the house, requiring warm coats, gloves – and maybe snowshoes. But there is an easy solution.
Invest in an additional trash can, a large one that can hold 30 gallons or more. Place it discreetly but conveniently near the house. Ideally, you have a kitchen door behind the house and can bring in leftover food without bundling up for the cold.
Your winter compost will freeze and not decompose during the cold months. So, cut all the big things into small pieces to allow it to settle down nicely. Then in the spring you will need to shovel the material into a wheelbarrow and return it to your regular compost pile after thawing.
Of course, commercial compost bins are available for purchase in place of Mr. Thrifty’s 30 gallon plastic container. But because compost doesn’t decompose outdoors in the winter, a plastic bin may not contain all of the material you produce. If you fill the bin first, an additional bin is a smaller investment than a bin designed just for compost. What about these rotating bins? I’ve rarely met someone who continues to transform them every week anyway.
So be creative and protect your plants the way you can. And if you have a great idea, drop me a line so I can share it with others. My best to all of you for the holidays!
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