Plant Protection

    • Crocus and daffodils announce the arrival of spring if you plant them now. Choose from a variety of colors and bi-colors available now.
    • Enjoy birds in your garden by hanging bird feeders around the yard. You’ll see many different kinds as they migrate through this fall.
    • Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.
    • Japanese maples and snowball bushes are some of the most colorful shrubs in the fall. Plant them now and give them a head start on spring.
    • Check houseplants for insects. Spray leaves with insecticidal soap and wipe them off to leave them clean and insect-free.

Protecting Plants from Freezing Weather

Plants vary in the amount of cold that they can take in the winter time. Where zinnias are completely killed by a frost, pansies thrive in the cold and will even bloom underneath the snow. Some evergreen shrubs, like jasmine vines, fuchsias, citrus and fragrant rhododendrons, are damaged by severe winter cold, but there are measures you can take to protect these plants.

Protecting plants from frost damage usually is accomplished by trapping the heat that is rising up from the ground with clear plastic or similar materials, by moving the plant to a sheltered location, or by spraying with an antitranspirant spray, such as ‘Cloud Cover’. Each measure gives a few degrees of protection, so try them all on tender plant you value.

Covering tender plants with plastic or ‘N-Sulate’ (a lightweight fabric) make a big difference. When covering with plastic, it is best to make a light frame and staple the plastic to it. If plastic touches the leaves, each point of contact will freeze. During the day, the covering must be opened, at least a slit, to prevent overheating. With just an hour of sun, temperatures under a closed cover can quickly rise to over 100 degrees!

For additional protection, add Christmas tree lights inside the cold frame. On extra cold nights, placing an aluminum space blanket over the plastic on the frame will significantly add to the frost protection. With the aluminized side placed down (towards the plants), a space blanket retains 99% of the heat.

‘N-Sulate’ is a floating row cover that traps heat and moisture underneath it. Temperatures beneath the fabric can be 6 to 8 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. It is light enough that you can simply drape it over the plant, and porous enough that you don’t need to remove it during the daytime. But it will need to be secured against winds.

‘Cloud Cover’ is a product made from an acrylic polymer. When sprayed on a plant, it forms a clear, colorless, flexible, glossy film that doesn’t interfere with the plant’s growth. ‘Cloud Cover’ forms a protective coating, holding in moisture on plant foliage and stems, substantially reducing water loss in winter when drying winds and frozen ground deprive plants of their natural moisture intake.

For winter kill protection, spray in late fall when the temperature is above 40 degrees. The spray will gradually break down in about four months under cold weather conditions.

Antitranspirants are also effective on cut Christmas trees, wreaths, and greens to retard needle drop by retaining moisture in the foliage.

Keeping plants well-watered is important in freezing weather. Container plants are especially vulnerable to the desiccating (drying out) effects of freezing temperatures.

Apply protection measures this month before the severe cold of winter arrives.

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