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Column: Plants need winter protection

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By Holly Demaree

The summer was mild and enjoyable but the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a harsh winter. The ensuing cold is expected to negatively affect trees, shrubs and gardens.

“A lot of homeowners were taken by surprise by our cold, harsh winter last year,” said Nikos Phelps, president of Utopian Landscapes in Harrisburg, Pa., and a member of PLANET, the national trade association for landscape and lawn care professionals. “We had warmer than normal winters for the past 10 to 15 years, so people got used to not having to go the extra mile to protect plants and trees for a harder winter.”

But there are some preventive measures that can be taken to preserve plants during the winter. “Plants need moisture during the winter,” said Fred Richwine, the owner of Geist Nursery. “Make sure your plants aren’t dry.”

Some people think plants do not need as much water in the winter due to snow melt, but usually that is not enough and it is difficult for plants to get water in the winter. Watering plants in late fall will help them stay hydrated throughout the winter, according to Richwine.

Plants also need protection from wind and frost. “You can spray anti-desiccant on the plant in November, which coats the leaves and keeps them from getting winter damage,” said Richwine.

An anti-desiccant keeps moisture from being drawn out of plant leaves, which lose the moisture when they thaw in the winter sun and then re-freeze. The anti-desiccant helps prevent freeze-thaw during the winter.

To protect plants from the wind, burlap or frost protection fabric can be used. Dry leaves and other plants can be added to help keep the plant warm.

“It is also important that people plant trees and bushes in good locations where they have protection from the elements,” said Phelps. “Plants like crepe myrtles do well when planted in a sunny, wind-protected area. A south-facing wall of the house works well.”


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