In autumn, when your garden hibernates, your job is over... except the planning for next year. In winter, the garden is at the mercy of the elements and the most fragile plants could be in danger. This problem is aggravated if the soil is badly drained and the garden exposed to prevailing winds.
Why protect plants?
- Because water is no longer available in the frozen soil, winter winds can dry out evergreen and coniferous foliage.
- A temporary thaw followed by a cold spell could freeze the buds of the most fragile plants.
- The bark of young trees exposed to the sun could heat up quickly and split when cold nighttime temperatures triumph.
- De-icing salts could burn foliage near roadways and sidewalks.
- The weight of snow and ice could deform some plants, particularly upright or columnar conifers.
Proper protection starts on the ground. Think of the area just below the surface as sheltering the heart of the plant and its reserves for spring growth.
One of the best protections against cold and sudden temperature change is a thick coat of snow.
- Unless it's mechanically piled up, snow is usually relatively light and will wrap itself around plants without compromising their shape. In fact, more plant varieties will grow perennially in areas that have a lot of snow, all other things being equal.
- Increase snow coverage by leaving the stalks and foliage on perennials until spring.
- Cover the most fragile plants with branches of conifers. The snow will have no problem hanging onto the needles, and it is a beautiful sight.
Shovelled snow or snow thrown up by a snowblower is too heavy and dense for our use, as its weight could damage plants.
- Protect these roots from extreme temperatures by applying 10 to 15 cm of mulch every fall.
- Fallen leaves make an excellent supplement if you go over them with the mower to break them into small pieces, so they don't form a crust in winter.
- You'll want to bank the earth, mixed with compost, around some of the more fragile plants, like Roses and Grapevines. Botanix Forest Compost is ideal for this.
Protecting your plants from the snow and the wind
When the weight of snow or ice seems to be a problem:
- rope or nylon cord can protect your conifers almost invisibly.
- Your most delicate shrubs can also be tied up this way.
Protecting your plants from the wind or de-icing salts requires something more robust.
- Snow fences are solid, but not airtight. You can wrap them around the base of conifers or make shelters to completely cover small bushes or globular conifers. These, in turn, can be covered with jute or geotextile, such as the white geotextile developed speciﬁcally for winter protection.
Because food is harder to come by in winter, ﬁeld mice and other small rodents go after the cambium layer situated just under the tender bark of young trees. Under cover of snow, they go about their destruction unnoticed. If they chew through the bark in a continuous circle around the tree, the tree will die.
- To protect your trees from this threat, wrap the base in the perforated white plastic strips or metal webbing sold expressly for this purpose.
- You could also compact snow around the trunks to make it more difﬁcult for them.