It Is Time To Tuck Your Garden To Bed

One way to have a successful garden is to ensure it goes into the winter adequately cleaned and prepared. 

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Although many gardeners fed that last-minute planting and thorough cleaning are sufficient, more than that is needed to protect plants sufficiently to make them survive.

Winter Protection For Plants

Winter protection aims to guard plants against the harmful effects of cold, sun, wind, snow, ice, and alternate freezing and thawing. With many plants, cold is no problem.

Although hardy rhododendrons, for example, are not bothered by the cold, they suffer from the intense sun and wind, which suck the moisture from the leaves, resulting in a condition known as windburn. 

Covering them with slats, burlap, or boards or cutting evergreen branches or trees keeps the sun and wind off their leaves.

Then consider the Dutch bulbs, which are hardy and can withstand cold and freezing. What happens during the winter is that the ground freezes and thaws alternately.

When this happens, heaving occurs, resulting in the bulbs’ roots being broken, while the bulbs may even be pushed upward. 

A winter cover, applied after the ground has frozen hard, serves to keep the cold in the environment and to prevent constant freezing and thawing.

Late November and December, depending on the section of the country, are the months to begin to put the garden to bed.

Where snow comes early, have the necessary material ready and apply before the big storm hampers your operations. 

The time to use mulches is after the ground has frozen, so its temperature will be maintained uniformly.

Mulch For Protection

Injury from sun and wind occurs on broad-leaved evergreens, mainly from January through March, when the sun is more substantial, and there is snow to reflect the rays of the bright sun.

To protect these plants from this injury, burlap, evergreen branches, or other materials can be used.

In addition to making provisions to cover the tops of plants, covering the surface of the soil around them to keep the roots moist and prevent heaving, which tears hearts apart, is another critical need.

Trees and shrubs of all kinds will benefit from an application, 4” to 6” inches high, of straw, marsh hay, buckwheat hulls, pine needles, sawdust, wood chips, evergreen branches, or other material.

Leaves also make a good mulch around many plants, and those from oaks are particularly appreciated by rhododendrons, azaleas, mountain laurels, and other acid-loving plants.

Start Foundation Planting

When protecting the tops of trees and shrubs, there is always the foundation planting with which to start. 

If snow tends to drop from the roof, place slatted frames over evergreens and other shrubs to break its fall.

Where there are rhododendrons, picris, mahonia, mountain laurel, Lesotho, and different broad-leaved kinds, and the sun shines brightly through the leafless trees, place burlap over the frames. If there is no snow, simple structures can be used instead of slatted ones.

Whether needle or broad-leaved evergreens are in the foundation planting, tying their branches with robust and soft twine to prevent the snow from breaking them is a preventive measure.

This applies to delicious yews like Hick’s and Hatfield, which spread and die when the snow collects.

Arborvitae and other pyramidal kinds tend to snap with the weight of the snow, so when necessary, tie them to a tall, substantial stake or the house, a tree, or other support.

Spray Liquid Plastic Wax

To protect the tops of rhododendrons, lollies, yews, and other evergreens from sunscald, windburn, salt spray, and other forms of injury, liquid plastic wax may be applied in the late fall or early winter, when the temperature is above freezing, in the form of a spray.

This wax is a milky white liquid that dries to form a thin, colorless transparent film that prevents leaves from giving off excessive moisture. It can be applied with an insecticide sprayer, which should be washed after use.

Burlap Against Freezing

Those who grow boxwood and prize it will have to give it special attention where snowfall is not light. But first, ensure enough moisture in the soil to go into the winter.

Second, apply a mulch of about 6” inches of peat moss, salt hay, straw, or other material. Third, build a frame around it and cover it with burlap. 

Boxwood is not the hardiest of broadleaved evergreens, and in the colder sections of the country where it grows, it suffers much from sunscald and windburn.

The burlap is needed to give it this shelter, even on the top, where supports will be required to prevent the burlap from breaking from the weight of the snow. 

Hybrid tea roses invariably need protection. When the ground is about to freeze, generally in December, hill them with 8” inches of soil to prevent heaving.

Soil for this should be obtained from another part of the garden and not from around the roses since it may expose their roots. Then cut back extra long growth so it will not whip around in the wind and loosen the roots.

Later, when all this is frozen solidly, place a thick layer of marsh hay, straw, cranberry tops, or evergreen branches between the hills and over the plants, but lightly, to keep the soil uniformly cold.

Apply Salt Spray

Near the seashore, salt spray is likely; additional coverage will be needed to shield the branches.

This also applies to climbers, though they are hardy enough so that their tops do not ordinarily require protection.

Cover them with hybrid teas, floribundas, and other kinds of roses, completely with marsh hay, tied securely at several places so the wind will not remove it. 

Salt spray from winter storms will not kill the canes of roses protected in this manner.

Protect Tree Trunks

If you have any thin-barked trees, such as birch or magnolia, that have been recently planted, protect their barks from dehydration and sunscald with burlap, tree paper, or raffia paper -round spirally around their trunks.

Also, mulch any that were planted this fall. Give azaleas, except for any unreliable hardiness which will need additional coverage, a mulch of leaves several inches deep.

Oak leaves are perfect because of their acid reaction. A thick layer applied at this time may seem too much, but it will settle with rain and snow. 

This mulch, of course, should not be removed but allowed to rot and become humus. Rhododendrons, mountain laurels, and other acid-loving plants all appreciate this attention.

Remember The Biennials

Remember not to overlook foxgloves, sweet William, canterbury bells, Oriental poppies, and other biennials and perennials which remain green all winter.

To prevent their leaves from matting and rotting, place a mulch of salt hay, buckwheat hulls, straw, or other mulch that does not mat and tends to hold moisture under the leaves. However, avoid covering their crowns, for this might smother them.

Iris planted this fall will need mulching, a practice advised for other perennials also put in at this time. 

Mainly do not forget chrysanthemums, which suffer the most from winter injury because they have roots close to the surface.

When the ground freezes, cut back the stems and cover seeds with hay, straw, evergreen branches, or another water-shedding material.

The chrysanthemum branches may also be spread in a crisscross fashion over and around the plants and then covered with a layer of hay or other material.

If you do not have time to protect your plants with one method or another, then do not cut the stalks at all, but leave them to catch a natural fall of leaves, as well as the snow, which is, in the end, the best of winter covers. The only difficulty is that we cannot be sure of it.

If leaves of trees remain on your lawn, remove them to avoid smothering the grass. Large leaves, such as maple and plane tree, tend to flatten and smother wherever used in the garden, so avoid their use except around large shrubs and trees where they may be applied safely.

Dig Vegetable Garden

After the last broccoli or cabbage is lifted from the vegetable garden, turn over the soil, and leave it in a lumpy condition so it will benefit from air, rain, and snow.

If located on a slope, spread flower and vegetable stalks that are not diseased over the soil to prevent erosion. These stalks may also be placed on perennial and bulb plantings in the garden to act as mulch.

If you cannot use this material this way, do not throw it away, but place it in the compost pile unless diseased or weedy. 

In some cases, it may even be allowed to remain uncut to catch the snow, particularly in open, windswept places.

Use Corn Stalks

Corn stalks, unless thrown away, can be put to good use to protect small trees and shrubs against cold, wind, and sun.

When the ground freezes, place them all around the plant and fasten them at several places to prevent them from blowing away. In the spring, be sure to burn or otherwise destroy the corn stalks to check the spread of the corn borer.

When finally finished, as a final chore, scrape tools of soil, clean them with a wet cloth and go over them with oil so they will not rust. 

List of all, hang them up in a dry place for safe keeping and to remind you that your garden has been carefully tucked to bed and the job has been well done.

44659 by G. T.