Winterize Your Plants
Unless you live in a sub-tropical paradise, you’re preparing for winter, or winter may already be knocking on your doorstep. If you live in a tropical paradise, head back to the beach with a drink — if you aren’t in paradise, it’s time to brace for the cold and winterize your plants. And this article is for you. As much as you prepare for winter by bringing out the warm coats and fitting your cars with chains and shovels, your plants need some preparation to survive the winter too. Your indoor herb garden should be just fine as long as your indoor temps don’t drop too much, but your outdoor plants will need some care. We’ve done some research and are preparing our plants too. A La Nina winter is on its way, which means a wetter winter for the Pacific Northwest and parts of Appalachia and westward, drier winter for much of the south, and some extra cold for the upper Midwest. Read along to learn how to prepare your garden and plants for the harsh (but hopefully not too harsh) winter ahead.
1. Before You Plant
Before setting out to winterize your plants, make sure your plants can handle the winter in the first place. You wouldn’t try to raise a cactus, sotol, or century plant outdoors in the pacific northwest. You also shouldn’t try to grow a sword fern in the Southwest. Be sure to make sure any plants you select for your garden suit the climate you’re in — otherwise, you’ll lose them reasonably quickly. Other things to consider are how much light or shade your garden, or front yard gets, as well as the amount of precipitation and humidity that is normal for your area. Lastly, soil testing kits and soil pH meters can help you determine your soil quality and select appropriate fertilizers or make adjustments in your soil.
2. Mulching and Preparing in the Fall
Now that we’ve covered selecting plants in the first place let’s talk about preparing your plants before winter begins. If you’ve got any potted plants and hanging planters, be sure to bring them inside for the season. Clay pots absorb and release water as they “breathe” and can shatter as moisture freezes; it’s best to keep them out of the extreme cold.
For those plants that stay outside, grab your garden trowel and get ready to mulch. A layer of mulch helps insulate and protect your plants. A good goal is about three to 5 inches, even more for colder climates. When mulching, leave a few inches from the base of the plant, so rodents taking shelter in mulch don’t chow down on your tender perennials, and you avoid promoting rot. As you mulch, also be sure to remove any weeds and invasive plants and dispose of them. If you’ve recently planted trees or shrubs, they could use some extra mulch love, too, until they are well established. If you’ve had a dry autumn, deep soaking your plants before winter will help them retain moisture that will keep them healthy throughout the winter.
3. Wrap It Up
Some trees and shrubs have thin bark that just can’t withstand winter chills. For these, it is worth considering tree wraps and tapes. There are products specifically made for this and help keep your young trees healthy. All of your plants, before a hard freeze, are going to need to be covered. If you know a freeze or some snow is on its way to you — cover your plants while you’re out covering your pipes. Canvas and burlap are prime choices for your garden, but if you don’t have those on hand, sheets, towels, and other textiles you have lying around will do just fine. If you know your winter snow comes with wind, make sure you weigh down your coverings so you don’t lose them in the winter storms.
Alright, plant parents — we’ve armed you with information to help winterize your plants and prepare your green babies for the winter season. It’s up to you now to take action. Start brewing up warm drinks to fuel your winterizing and enjoy a hot toddy or hot cocoa for us. We hope winter treats you and your plants well.