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Fall and Winter Plant Care

We work hard to make sure that the plants we sell will be able to take care of themselves for you. There are a few cases where the location they get put in is severe, the plant is fairly newly planted, or you want to try something that you know might be “touchy”. This article addresses those issues.

Fertilize now with Plant-O-Ganic 8-8-8 fertilizer. It is a slow release that is much better than a 10-10-10. It is also better than the “spike” type which puts a lot of fertilizer in a little space. It will position the plant to be able to put on a growth spurt for you in the spring. I would do the same fertilization in the spring again.

Before the ground freezes this fall/winter give the plants a thorough watering so the plants have a moisture supply for the winter. Using a soaker hose for 4 hours is the best way to accomplish this. Alternatively you can set a hose on a trickle and let it dribble for 30-45 minutes on each plant All too often we see plants watered frequently, but not deeply enough. Putting the equivalent of one inch of a slow soaking rain on is critical. I have started telling customers to do this whether it rains or not. I am finding that as humans, our perception of a “good” rain is often not accurate.

All plants will benefit from a layer of bark mulch. A two to three inch layer is “normal”. It keeps soil cooler in the summer but warmer in the winter. It also looks good, keeps weeds down, and reduces water use. A heavier layer can be applied for the winter but  should be thinned back down in the spring. If you add additional mulch, wait until the ground freezes a little bit (late November typically) so that rodents do not use the mulch to set up housekeeping.

There are a few plants such as the old types of blue hydrangea (before Endless Summer) and the less winter hardy selections of roses that need special mulching attention.

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This sure needs a better name. This is a spray which prevents moisture from leaving a plants leaves as quickly as it normally does. Plants like Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel, and Holly have leaves on the plant all winter. These leaves are giving off moisture even though the plants ability to take it in is much reduced in the winter.

Anti-transpirants reduce the amount of moisture a plant needs in the winter months. One spray application is made in early December, and a second one in early to mid February when or if we get a warm day.

They are most beneficial on more newly planted additions to your landscape; ones that haven’t been through a winter yet.

There are several brands, the most widely know is probably Wilt-Pruf.

The newly planted broad-leaved evergreens mentioned above also can also benefit from being shielded from strong persistent winds. It is important that you create the screen in such a way that it is not actually touching the plant. The goal is to slow the speed of the wind, and not to try to encase the plant entirely.

More information on screening is available here.

While it may not seem it to us humans, a thick layer of snow is great protection from the harsh winter. The problem comes when it is pushed on a plant by a snowplow or drops from the roof in big clumps. In these cases some sort of physical protection is needed. An A-frame type protective structure can be built to help with some of this. Make sure to leave the ends open for air movement in any case.

Ice is a tough one. The biggest problem with ice is its unpredictability. Some people choose to tie up plants that might suffer from ice storm damage. Arborvitaes are the plants that are most commonly given this protection. Use a soft strong string and make sure not to tie the plant up tightly. Your goal is to reinforce the plant’s branches to give extra strength only if needed.

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