Preparing for winter
Clear sheet plastic is one of the best and cheapest covers to have on hand before a hard freeze.
Most people don’t quite miss the extreme summer heat just yet, but it’s getting colder and some plants need help to survive. The native plants usually go through the winter and come out just fine on their own. However, non-native ones sometimes need more care. Now is the time to check the temperature tolerance of all your non-native plants. Even if they survived winters before, it wouldn’t hurt to check just how cold they can get in case this winter is the coldest they’ve experienced. It doesn’t hurt to check the tag on the plant or look it up by name to see at what temperature you need to protect it.
If you have plants that will need shelter from extreme cold, don’t wait until the last minute to get supplies and come up with a plan for protecting them. Potted plants can just come inside for the winter, but with larger ones, you need a good strategy. Clear sheet plastic is one of the best and cheapest covers to have on hand before a hard freeze. It comes big, so young trees can be covered, and it can be tied down like a huge tent. Since we have some warm days just about all year long, be prepared to take the cover off so the plants don’t get too hot. As much as possible make it easy to take it on and off since, at certain times of the year, the temperature goes up and down so much so fast, you’d think a kid was playing with the thermostat.
An easy way to protect smaller trees is to put a clear plastic bag over them. You can make clear plastic bags to size with the clear sheet plastic. Cut it, fold it, get it just right to go over the plant, and use duct tape or twist ties going through it to seam the sides. Most of the time, just covering the trees with plastic will work to keep them alive through winter. However, some people use an electric heater as well, carefully putting it by the tree on the coldest nights.
Piling on the mulch and keeping the plants well watered helps them survive until spring. You especially want to water abundantly before a frost since that will help keep them from being damaged. Water releases heat even as it freezes. Be careful about piling too much mulch against the bases of trees as it might cause rot.
November isn’t just about preparing for the cold. Fruit and nut tree lovers can start breaking the ground for new baby trees. While it’s best to wait until February or March to plant figs, this is the time for lots of nut trees like pecan, Chinese chestnut, and walnuts. The fruit trees eager to go in the ground include apples, blueberries, grapes, peaches, and pears. It’s better to dig the holes when the ground is mostly dry to prevent clumping. However, as long as you water enough to settle the dirt, a few clumps won’t hurt.
It doesn’t do a lot of good to fertilize the trees right now since they aren’t awake enough to absorb nutrients. This also isn’t the best time to prune; February is the month most recommended for taking out the pruners.
If you have just finished your fall crop of vegetables, it’s not too late to plant Austrian Winter Peas as a cover crop for an even better crop next year.
By Dori Herndon