November 24th, 2015
We’re in iffy territory now weather-wise with ice storms, freezes and, yes, even a plowable snow possible at any time.
The big question here at winter’s doorstep is just how bad things will get this time around.
The past two winters have been cold ones – enough to cause a fair amount of plant mayhem, likely made worse by the fact that our landscapes had adapted to a long string of warm winters.
Farmer’s Almanac-believers aside, who knows what we’re going to get?
If you’re an optimist or gambler or someone with only solidly winter-hardy plants in ideal locations, you’re probably doing nothing to “winterize” the landscape. And most of the time, our landscapes really do come out on the other side in reasonably good shape.
But if you’re pushing the envelope with borderline-hardy plants or one who goes into every winter fully expecting a vortex-laced snowmageddon, you’re more likely to feel like you ought to do something.
The two best somethings are burlap barriers and mulch.
Temporary walls of burlap stapled to stakes does a good job of deflecting cold winter winds, especially winds coming from the northwest and blasting broad-leafed evergreens such as cherry laurel, holly, nandina, osmanthus, boxwood and rhododendrons.
A few inches of leaves, bark or wood mulch over the ground helps insulate plant roots. West Shore fig grower Tim Clymer says he’s found that 6 to 12 inches of wood mulch (pulled back in spring) protects figs in winter as well as wrapping them.
Mulching and doing burlap barriers both is about as well as you can do, short of building a retractable roof over the yard.
Actually, there’s a third precaution that’s sometimes overlooked, says Annette MaCoy, the Master Gardener coordinator at Penn State Extension’s Cumberland County office.