Winterizing Your Plants
By LMG Calla Victoria
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to come up with a game plan to protect your more tender plant material, which will not survive the winter in your hardiness zone. Greenhouses make over-wintering your plants a quite easy chore. Some greenhouses are quite large and expensive costing thousands of dollars. However you can find small mini greenhouses that are quite affordable at around $100, which consists of some vertical shelving and a plastic zip cover. If you are in the market for a greenhouse, please make sure that whatever you choose has some hinged windows in the roof to let out some of the hot air. Although cold outside, on a cold bright sunny day with the sun beaming down on that glass or plastic it is going to make it quite warm in the greenhouse; so you must to have a way to release some of that heat, or your plants can get burned. If you are fortunate enough to have a greenhouse, just pack you greenhouse with plants and all is well. But for everyone else, we have to get cracking.
I have heard many suggestions and tried a lot of way to protect my plants. The fact is you can use any old blanket or plastic tarps to cover your plants on cold nights. However once the sun comes out you are supposed to uncover the plants so that they get some sun. Or if you use plastic to cover the plants, you want to remove the plastic during the day so that the plants do not burn up under the plastic. This all gets to be quite arduous and annoying after a while, so you finally give up and say whatever!
Please don’t go away frustrated because there is an easier way. The most effective way that I have found to cover plants is by using “row cloth;” sometimes referred to as strawberry cloth because it is what strawberry farmers use to cover their crops. What makes this cloth my best choice is because not only does it protect plants from frigid temperatures as all covers do, but it also lets light as well as moisture through to nourish your plants. Most other covers only provide warmth for the plant but do not allow the sun in, which plants need for photosynthesis; nor do they allow water in that plants need for nourishment. Therefore when you uncover your plants after the threat of a freeze is gone, the plants look pale and sickly and it takes a while for them to look healthy again. But with the row cloths, the plants are protected yet still get all of the light and nourishment they need. Therefore once you cover your plants with row cloth, they can stay covered throughout the entire winter, even if you get a few warm days. Some big box stores do carry row cover cloths, and you can find tons of the the stuff online.
Whatever you choose to use to protect your plants:
1. Make sure that you create some type of teepee effect so that the cover does not touch the foliage of your plant material.
2. Make sure the covering goes all the way down to the ground. You can lay some boards or bricks on top of the edges of the covering so that your plants are sealed and no cold air comes in.
For your other trees and shrubs that can withstand the cold weather, apply an extra layer of mulch to insulate their root systems. Also before a freeze give your garden (except for succulents) a good drink of water. I know this sounds crazy but the soil will trap the heat better wet than when it is dry, and evaporate slowly which warms the air around the plants.
Finally bring in your potted plants and put them indoors, in a garage, or somewhere they will be protected. Many plants like plumeria go dormant during the winter, so just put them in a corner somewhere and leave them until the spring. If your plumeria is large and planted in the ground you can do one of two things. You can dig up the plant and take it inside, or you can use pipe insulation to cover the trunk of your plant and the branches, and cover the rest. At the New Orleans Botanical Garden, they dig up all of their plumerias and stand them upright in a corner of the greenhouse and leave them until spring. I hope this information has been helpful, and now you have some choices to make, but don’t take too long thinking about it.
This article was printed in the November 21, 2015 issue of Data News Weekly.
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