Protecting Plants and Shrubs During Winter

Another helpful How-To article from your friends at High Tech Landscapes

The winter season can be a challenge for many new and experienced gardeners. Both tender and young, hearty plants are at risk to not make it until the spring season. Here are steps you can take to protect your plants and shrubs from winter’s worst.

Apply Mulch

Add mulch, (or a mixture consisting of straw, leaves and bark). The layer of mulch should be about two inches thick. This will help the plant stay insulated and retain water. Surprisingly, it may not be the cold that will affect the plant, but the freeze and thaw cycle. Mulch will keep the plant from experiencing extreme temperature swings. This application can also help keep the soil warm and avoid becoming frozen. When soil is frozen, it can prevent water from reaching to the plant roots.

Come spring, you will remove this mulch and replace with new. However, not all plants will benefit from a thick layer of mulch. For example, roses and strawberries can suffer from being “overwintered” by being completely covered with mulch. When in doubt, always check with your landscaping professional about specific plants for reference.


Cover with Burlap

Cover plants with burlap during the night to protect them from the winter’s dropping temperatures. You must use a fabric that breathes so that it will not block air circulation for your plants. Ideally, you should try to have the burlap not directly touch the plant. This can be done by building a frame around the plant and placing the burlap on top. You might have to place stones or some kind of weight on the base of the burlap to avoid it blowing off on windy days.

For newly planted conifers (cone bearing plants) or broad-leaved evergreens, a simple cocoon-like wrap of burlap will be sufficient. The burlap should be long enough to wrap around the plant a few times. Next, you must drape the burlap to one side of the plant, and then wrap it loosely like rolling up a rug. For a more durable structure, you can drive a few wooden stakes into the ground around the plant. Then wrap the burlap around the stakes, and staple into place.


Use Cloches

For perennials (plants that may live for more than two years) you need to protect the crown so that it can grow again in the spring. A cloche is a bell shaped piece of glass that you cover over the plant and its leaves by tucking them in. The leaves will die when you do this, but the plant will be ready to grow again when winter passes.


Make a Bubble Wrap Enclosure

Bubble wrap is not only for delivering packages. Making your own bubble wrap enclosure should be used for plants that are larger than two feet. Set up four stakes around the plant and wind bubble wrap around the stakes, making sure that there is an inch of bubble wrap above the ground. Then wrap a burlap skirt around the bottom to keep out the wind while allowing air circulation. The roof should be made with a sheet of plastic that covers the top, and is held together with rafters tied to the four wall stakes.

These helpful tips will improve your plant’s chances for survival. Every garden and location is unique. Keep in mind that even seasoned gardeners tend to lose a few plants during the winter, but would have lost much more if they had not developed a method for protecting their plants. Welcome every winter as a way to learn more about your garden, and discover how you can make it stronger with every season.