I don’t care if my yard all winter looks like a landfill. I’m nuts about preserving plants from winter deaths.
The first step is a plant census. Walk around and decide what to protect. Not all plants need help. Fully established ones, at least 3 years old, should survive alone. The younger ones with immature roots are the most susceptible. Include on your list plants severely damaged last season by drought, bugs and disease. They are still weak.
Then we have some weirdoes such as hydrangeas. They bloom on last year’s stems. A tough winter will dehydrate them, canceling blooms next season.
Plant wrapping started with burlap. Once upon a time, garden centers sold it in bulk rolls. Burlap is a good insulator and moisture preserver. Downside: It gets heavy when wet and can break branches. It looks like some sort of dead animal out there.
Solution: Floating row covers. These are lightweight sheets of fabric available in garden centers. They are easy to use and do a perfect job of keeping cold winds off plants. Those winds quickly dehydrate plant tissue, and that’s why plants die in winter.
Unlike burlap, row covers let in the sunlight and rain, major benefits in any season. Although they are lightweight, they last a long time. Mine survived the 50 mph winds of Sandy on Oct. 29.
It’s fun working with this stuff. You can build enclosures by staking around the plants and wrapping the cover around them. A stapler is handy to attach it. Or you can place a tall stake near the plant and make a tent.
The drill is first thoroughly water the plant one more time. Apply two to three inches of ground leaf mulch. I use my mower to make the mulch. My favorite leaves are maples, as they easily rot in springtime, enriching the soil. Avoid hard-to-rot oak and ash leaves.
Mulch preserves soil moisture while helping to prevent soil heaving due to changing temperatures. Then build your cage or tent with stakes wrapped in row covers. One layer should work. All you’re doing is keeping the dehydrating wind off, not shielding from the cold.
The walls of your enclosure should be six inches taller than your plants. Secure it to the ground with U-shaped clips made of coat-hanger wire. Keep an eye on it for a few days to make sure it’s wind secure.
Row covers come by many names. The oldest and most famous is Reemay. It is made from spun polyester and lasts many years. It comes in blankets 67 inches by 20 feet for about $8.
If your plants are small, simply lay the material on them and attach with the U-clips mentioned above.
Contact Jim Hillibish at email@example.com.