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Who is getting their garden ready for the cold, winter months? This is a great guide for those living in colder areas. Enjoy this guest post by Ann Sanders of A Green Hand, all about preparing the organic garden for winter.
Fall is an excellent time of year to plant lots of plants and get them settled in before Winter hits. But while you are in the garden doing Fall chores, it may behoove you to do some chores that could make the difference between some plants surviving Winter or succumbing to Winter.
Identify the Plants Needing Protection
Start by making sure you know which plants are most likely to need some Winter protection. If you are buying new plants, check if they are considered hardy in your climate zone. Most plant labels list the range of zones appropriate for the plant. If the label does not list zones, ask the nursery staff.
Determine What Protection the Plant Needs
Different plants are susceptible to different Winter hazards.
- Herbaceous perennials that die back to their roots each winter can suffer when the ground freezes and thaws, causing the ground to heave and lifting plant roots above the soil line where they dry out or freeze.
- Trees and shrubs can lose branches when snow piles up and the weight causes the branch to crack. Ice storms can also cause breakage.
- Evergreen plants, whether conifers or broadleaved, can dry out from cold, winter winds.
- Multi-stemmed plants, such as arborvitae or hydrangeas, can split apart when snow falls between stems.
- Plants close to the roads that get salted are in danger of dying from a soil that is too alkaline. This is especially true of acid loving plants like heath, heather, rhododendrons, blueberries, and others.
Find a Reliable Method for Providing Winter Protection
The following methods can provide some protection from frost, freezing, snow, or drying winds:
- Mulching: Any plant benefits from keeping the temperature of the ground as even as possible to prevent the freeze-thaw cycle that heaves roots. If your ground freezes more than a few inches below ground, you also need to minimize this freezing by raising the ground temperature. A thick layer of an organic mulch helps with both problems. Autumn leaves are a perfect mulch.
- Staking: Young trees are especially in danger of being damaged by heavy snow. Before you expect snow to begin in your locale, stake young trees on at least two sides.
- Bracing branches: Trees and shrubs with a wide spread or multi-stemmed trees and shrubs benefit from having their branches braced so the load of the snow is shared and is less likely to break branches.
- Wrapping plants: Many plants subject to frost, dry winds, ice storms, hail, and sleet can be protected by wrapping the entire plant with burlap or another breathable material. Wait for the first heavy frost before wrapping a plant.
- Cloche plants to control temperatures. In the vegetable garden, you can keep growing cool-season plants into Winter or protect overwintering plants by covering entire beds with a climate-control cover.
Prepare the Plants, Too
Just as you prepare yourself for winter by getting new boots, gloves, and lots of books to read, plants need to prepare for Winter by going dormant. Dormancy means a plant shuts down the growing process so it can focus on staying alive.
Some plants stay alive by dying back to their roots. Others drop their leaves to stop photosynthesis and protect themselves from drying winds sucking out all their moisture.
You can help plants prepare for winter by stopping fertilization long before the temperatures drop; fresh growth is always more susceptible to temperature drops, snow, and ice, than old growth. You can also make sure that plants have moisture, even in winter. Some areas of the garden – under eaves, under trees – can get severely dry in winter. Winter winds also rob plants of moisture if there is no snow cover. You need to check soil moisture in exposed beds and add water if it begins to dry out.
Increased humidity around plants can also help shelter them from cold temperatures. One traditional method is to put a few drops of witch hazel in bird baths to keep the water from freezing. Some strategically placed five gallon buckets of water with a natural anti-freeze like witch hazel or alcohol can help keep up humidity levels.
Make sure, however, that water containers with alcohol do not spill and that you cover them with hardware cloth or another cover that will keep the local birds, pets, and curious wildlife from imbibing this punch.
Winter Organic Gardening
Are you ready to get your organic garden prepared for the winter? What do you do in your garden so that plants are ready to revive themselves in the springtime? Let me know in the comments section below!
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