After last winter, I think we are all wondering what is coming our way over the next few months. Many of us will breathe a sigh of relief when we hear what the forecasters are saying – that although we will have snow, it will be nowhere near like last winter’s insanity. It is likely that our snowfall will be at or a little below normal levels… but there will also be some periods of extreme cold.
The reason? El Nino, and a weakening Polar Vortex. If you want to read about the hows and whys, check out this link to a video that explains it quite well. If you are wondering what it means for us, or more specifically, our plants, then keep reading!
Snow is good for plants. It provides insulation, and is an excellent source of Nitrogen, one of the main nutrients that plants need. Cold is necessary for plants to bloom well, as most of our northern perennials need a period of cold to “reset their clocks” and get ready for the warmth and longer days which will cause them to start to set buds.
The trouble is that some plants do not fare well if they get too cold or if the temperature fluctuates too much. A covering of snow helps keep the temperature more even, so there is less thawing and re-freezing of delicate plant tissues. (Think of how nasty ice cream gets if it thaws and then gets put back in the freezer, then think about what that must do to living plant tissue) So cold with snow is great, but cold without it is worrying.
It has been such a warm November and December so far that many plants are still flowering, and others are thinking about coming up. If you see bulbs starting to come through the soil don’t despair, they will be fine when it gets cold, as long as they don’t get too close to flowering. (If you see a bud and it’s expected to get extremely cold, pick it and enjoy it inside.) Buds on shrubs like Hydrangea, etc, are a little more cause for concern, because a sharp frost will kill the new growth, and hinder next year’s flowering. And there isn’t much we can do about that.
What we CAN do is make sure that the crown of the plant, the place where the plant meets the soil, has some protection. Plenty of leaves, pine needles, and even soil mounded on top will effectively shield plants from all but the worst of the winter chill if there is no snow to do it. And, if you haven’t done your fall clean up yet, you can feel good in the knowledge that the uncut plant stalks will also help insulate the plant. Delicate plants, like roses, especially newly planted ones, definitely need a little extra help, however. A chicken wire “cage” around the plant and stuffed with leaves is an inexpensive solution. There are also lots of products on the market today that are made specifically for protecting the more tender plants. See attached photos of one such product and how to install it.
Take heart, we will all survive the winter just fine, and with a little help, so will our plants! Feel free to contact us by commenting on this post if you have any specific questions relative to your garden!
A wire cage surrounds the plant and keeps the weight of the snow off of it.
The cage then gets stuffed with leaves…
Then the cover gets slid over the top. (You could also wrap burlap around it.) Googly eyes are optional.
Soon your garden will look like Aliens have landed, but your roses will be safe and sound for whatever Mother Nature throws at us!