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In Barb's Garden

Time to Winter Protect Your Garden
by Barb Foster
by Barb Foster


Inspired to nuture, Barb Foster took up gardening over a decade ago. She has a particular passion for this areas hardy perennials.

Barb collects her own seeds, grows seedlings in a greenhouse and has 500 sq ft of growing beds plus numerous perennial flower beds in her Zone 1b garden in Chetwynd, B.C.

Barb writes weekly for the Chetwynd Echo.

December 6, 2009

Soon it will be time to winter protect your garden. First we must wait for the ground to freeze. The purpose of winter protection is meant to prevent the freezing and thawing of the soil.

Freezing and thawing causes damage to the roots of perennial plants. We also winter protect to insulate against very extremely low temperatures; and to prevent drying from winter wind. If installed too early the protective material may become a nesting place for rodents and insects. If you place moth balls in a perforated container near the base of shrubs etc. the moth balls may provide an extra deterrent to these pests.

Snow insulates well. Snow fencing would help to hold snow. The tops of taller plants can be bent over to protect their crowns. Or one could cut back dead stalks to not less than 12 inches tall the dead stalks help to hold snow.

A wrap of burlap, leaving the top and bottom open, will help protect evergreen trees and shrubs from drying winter winds. The fabric cover could be tied to a lath frame or stakes Never use plastic sheeting, it will heat up and do more harm than good.

Wrap or paint (use latex paint only) the trunk of newly planted trees, the purpose is to keep the sun from thawing the bark on the south side of the tree. The freezing and thawing would cause the bark to split.

Apply a winter mulch of 4 to 8 inches of straw, leaves, or any material that won't pack down air tight. Place the mulch around but not on top of the crowns of the plants. Cover the mulch with evergreen boughs to keep the mulch in place, or use boughs alone, especially for evergreen perennials.

Bury the base of rose bushes with 15 to 24 inches of mulch, peat moss, soil, sawdust etc. Or one could cut bushes back to 12 inches high, or to fit inside rose cones, fill the cone with loose dry mulch. Our friend Sharon has kept her Hybrid tea rose bushes over several winters, by cutting them back to about seven inches high; covering them with about 2 feet of straw; then covering the straw with burlap, secure the burlap to hold the straw in place. For climbing roses or standard 'tree' roses, loosen from supports, loosen soil from one side of the root ball and bend the bush down to the ground. Peg the bush to the ground, cut back the climbers to about ten feet, remove excess side branches. Mark both ends (roots and top) with stakes. Mound at least a foot of heavy mulch over the whole bush. Place an extra covering of straw then lay evergreen boughs over the straw to keep it in place.

Leave the covering in place until new growth begins to appear on other plants in the spring. Winter protection of plants is only necessary if you have newly planted perennials, or perennials, trees, or shrubs that are borderline hardy for the local climate. Most zone 3, 2, or 1 hardy plants will survive in Chetwynd gardens once they are well established.

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