Getting Plants Ready for Winter

  Hort Snacks - October 2017
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 Ensuring the survival of perennial plants can be challenging, at times. But considering a few key points may help to make a difference.

1. Dormancy is good
Plants that have the time to shut themselves down and essentially prepare themselves for winter, are more likely to survive the winter, especially if they can be prevented from an early emergence from that dormant state. A little stress (water, nutrients, etc.) in late summer, before things get drastically cold, may help some plants to make a move towards dormancy.

2. Trim off the old and dead
Dead wood (or leaves) serves no purpose to the healthy growth and survival of an active plant. Similarly, old leaves tends to be inefficient and ineffective and should probably be removed along with the dead stuff. For crops such as strawberry, giving a haircut at renovation can encourage the plant to replace the leaves in the spring, or will at least clear the way for it.

3. Hydration
Plants that have sufficient water inside their tissues will generally come through the winter better, particularly if they have sufficient time to package that water up in a safe way. So, generally, giving the plants a drink up until winter is a good rule of thumb, but it is a fine line between topping up their tanks and encouraging them to keep growing actively when they should be shutting down. On the safe side, give them a drink but don’t drag it out. Give them enough but not too much. Clear as mud?

4. Out of the wind
Some plants will be fine as long as they aren’t constantly being drained of moisture by drying winds in winter. A light cover, a wind break or some other barrier will be sufficient to give tough plants the edge that they need. Other plants will benefit from a more substantial cover. But as a general rule, keep the wind off plants as much as possible during the winter.

5. Winter coat
Some plants will weather anything that our winters throw at them, which is great. Other plants will benefit from a bit of assistance, such as encouraging a deeper layer of snow over them, putting on a cover or applying a nice, aerated layer of straw over the top of them. All of these serve the purpose of providing additional insulation to overwintering plants, as well as protecting them from fluctuations in temperature that can nudge them out of dormancy, to their peril.

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Robert Spencer.
This information published to the web on September 29, 2017.