Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Preparing Plants For Cold Winter Weather

The U.S. had quite a bit of frigid weather a few weeks ago. Here in Eureka it hit a low of 25 degrees at night, very cold for the coast during fall, heading into winter. In Oregon my mother-in-law had 10 degree weather. Although she receives snow at her inland Oregon location in winter, this spell was even colder than usual. This particular weather hit all over the U.S. causing early snowfall and dangerous conditions on the road.

The passionflower vines did not die back surprisingly. The first year we were here there were some extra frosty mornings and the passionflower vines on the front fence died back quite a bit. They came back fine by spring but took a while to recover. We have frost on and off during late fall into winter but this was exceptionally cold for the coastal area.

With extremely cold weather it is always a good idea to plan ahead if you know the weather forcast. I believe in mulching all year long. Redwood bark works very well, a two or three inch layer lasts for quite a while and provides good coverage during the winter months. The mulch keeps soil moist after watering, eliminating some of the natural evaporation that occurs after watering. In my experience the mulch helps plants weather the worst frosts by keeping the base of the plant covered and protected. Mulch doesn't always save the plant in bad weather but its a good choice to use year round. Rocks can also be used to surround the base of plants such as Clematis. I use rocks at the base to cool the plant during the summer months and the rocks provide coverage in cold months as well.

An old trick in very cold weather is to let your hose drip a small stream of water so your water source is not frozen and available for your plants or birdbath if needed. Watch over plants that are new in the garden since they can be more sensitive to this kind of weather. Newly planted trees can be wrapped at the base or wrapped over the entire tree to keep the tree warmer. Ask your local nursery for the best products to use when wrapping trees or plants for cold weather. In freezing weather I have moved some sensitive plants in pots to areas near the house, against a back wall or in my case the more protected area of the hot tub deck that is surrounded by tall deck walls. If you have a green house move sensitive plants indoors to warm up a bit during frost warnings. Terracotta pots can crack in very cold weather and can be moved into the green house for protection as well.

Track your weather and take care of your plants during cold spells. If your plants are well prepared your garden should fare well during even the worst of weather.

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