Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bundling Your Plants Up for Winter

Screens on the South West for Winter Protection

Edythe Falconer, Ottawa-Carelton

There are a number of things we can do to "bundle" our plants up for winter:


In some situations we only get one chance. This is especially true with regard to watering new or even well-established cedar hedges if the fall leading up to freeze-up has been particularly dry. It also applies to dry spells in the spring. If hedges are not well-watered in the fall they become desiccated and may suffer permanent damage. The same is true in the spring when root systems have not yet had time to re-establish themselves.

Temperature Control

We have furnaces, air conditioners, thermostatic control, heaters, and stoves to control the temperature around us. For plants there are equivalents and some of them are up to us to provide.  Two of these,  Mulching and soil mounding, I will be exploring  separately. Additional forms of weather-proofing include cones, plastic, burlap and wire surrounds with linings. Snow, if available, as it certainly was this year, can be mounded up around special plants to prevent damaging freeze-thaw cycles that fool the plant into thinking that spring is here.


Screens placed strategically to the southwest of vulnerable young trees can prevent South West injury. This abiotic problem can damage a tree’s phloem which is responsible for carrying food to tree roots. If the damage is severe enough the tree will die. If the damage is less severe with cracking the tree is more vulnerable to disease and insects. Screens can also save hedges from the damaging effects of salt spray.


Mulching is an excellent form of both temperature and moisture control. In addition to these important functions, organic mulches gradually break down and help to replenish soil fertility and build soil structure. All mulches are helpful for weed control.  An extension of the idea of mulching is the practice, in the case of roses, of planting the rootstock/scion join well below the surface, particularly in cooler zones. This will increase zone hardiness.


Hedges that are pruned properly can more readily withstand the weight of heavy snow without branch damage. 


Plastic coils offer protection on the lower trunks of young trees and one of my neighbours goes a step further by putting them around lower branches as well. Fencing trees with wire mesh is a good way to foil rabbits and deer – unless, of course the snow is so deep that rabbits, in particular, just hop into the enclosure to enjoy a good chew.


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