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Information On How To Protect Outdoor Plants In Winter

Fall is the best time to get out in the garden and secure your sensitive and tender plants. Protecting plants in winter can help prevent winter scald, frozen roots, foliar damage and even death. Cold weather plant protection takes a little pre-planning and some equipment in harsher zones. In mild and temperate climates, it usually just means re-mulching and dividing peonies and other early spring bloomers. Fall maintenance should include a plan for winter protection for plants and winter plant covers.

Winter Protection for Plants

One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect sensitive plants is by mulching. Mulching with an organic material will also help enhance the soil as the mulch decomposes and releases nutrients to the earth. In autumn, pull back old mulches from the base of plants and spread a new 3-inch (7.5 cm.) layer around them out to the drip line. Leave a 1/2-inch (1 cm.) space around the plant’s stem to allow air circulation and prevent rot.

Wrap tender tree trunks with burlap or white wash them to prevent winter sunscald.

Rake a mound of soil around the base of roses to a depth of 12 to 18 inches (30-45 cm.) to protect the crown.

Apply an anti-desiccant to new foliage on bushes and shrubs that will shield the foliage from wind and winter sun.

Lay a layer of 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm.) of wood chips or straw over perennial and flower beds.

Protect outdoor plants in winter with screens or frames erected on the southwest side and make sure to water before a freeze. Wet soils prevent freeze injury to roots because moist soil holds more heat than dry soil.

Keep potted plants on dollies so you can wheel them to a sheltered location or indoors when temperatures drop.

It can be beneficial to create a structure or cage around some plants. A chicken wire cage is useful as a cold barrier for trunks when filled with straw. Use twine to wrap tall shrubs, such as arborvitae. This brings the limbs in closer so they don’t splay and break if snow builds up on them. Use stakes to prop up horizontal limbs that might break if snow makes them too heavy.

How to Protect Plants from Freezing

Seasoned gardeners know their zones and are prepared with materials to protect plants from freezing. Cold weather plant protection can be as simple as a blanket. Have on hand frost barrier fabric for fruit trees in spring. A swath of burlap is also useful to cover plants in the event of a freeze. These types of winter protection for plants may be left in place for the duration of the freeze. Covers should be removed during the daytime. Covers must reach all the way to the root zone to be the most effective. Stake or tie them down but resist the urge to bind them around the plant. This can cause stem and foliar injury.

Protecting plants in winter can help prevent winter scald, frozen roots, foliar damage and even death. Cold weather plant protection takes a little pre-planning, and this article will help.

Plant Covers for Winter

Discover how to use row covers to protect your plants from frost and extend the growing season.

Floating Row Cover for Plants

Floating row covers trap the heat from the ground to protect plants underneath from frost or cold snaps.

Photo by: Shutterstock/photowind

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Keep your plants safe from frost by using winter plant covers. These chill-chasing covers give plants a cozy hideaway that’s warmer than surrounding air. The difference is often only a few degrees, but those degrees make a big difference.

Protecting plants from freezes isn’t difficult. One of the most common winter plant covers is a floating row cover that you toss over plants before a freeze arrives. These row covers work by excluding cold air and creating an insulating air pocket around plants. Heat from soil, which is warmer than air, is trapped beneath the cover and held near plants.

These cold-defeating fabrics are made from a woven polypropylene that’s lightweight and breathable. The material allows sunlight and water to reach plants, but keeps frost out. Most of these winter row covers are also UV-stabilized. This means the materials won’t break down quickly when exposed to sunlight and can be used for several growing seasons.

Winter Gardening Don’ts 13 Photos

Protect your garden this winter by avoiding common mistakes that put plantings at risk.

Floating row covers for frost protection (also referred to as frost blankets) come in varying thicknesses. Thicker covers protect plants to a greater degree than thinner ones. Thicker row covers also exclude more light. Thinner covers typically protect plants to 28 degrees and permit 70 percent of sunlight to reach plants, while thicker covers protect plants from 24 to 26 degrees and allow 30 percent of sunlight to reach plants. It’s most economical to purchase row cover rolls 20 to 100 feet long, 6 or 12 feet wide. Cut the fabric into custom sizes, and sew pieces together as needed to form larger blankets.

Although floating row covers can lie directly on plants, you’ll get the best protection when you create a framework that holds the winter row covers above plants. Doing this will prevent damage to plants after a heavy rain, frost or snow that will weigh the fabric down.

To suspend the row cover above your plants, build a temporary or permanent framework for the row cover using flexible PVC pipes slid over pieces of rebar driven into the ground. Or, drape the blanket over short wire garden fencing. Using materials you have on hand is the secret to creating an inexpensive support system.

Learn about row covers for winter, including how they work and how to use them, from the experts at HGTV.