With winter fast approaching and forecasted colder than average temperatures, not necessarily accompanied by insulating snow and life-giving moisture, it's time to be thinking about how you can protect the considerable investment you've made in your landscape.
First, it helps to know what types of plants you have. If you have a yard full of annual plants, then you obviously love the spring, summer and fall ritual of planting your flower beds with the color and flavor of the year. Annuals need no protection since they are not meant to overwinter, though some, like Begonias and Coleus, are often potted and moved indoors for the winter and then replanted into beds in the spring.
On the other hand, if you have perennial flowers, vegetables, ornamental grasses or shrubs, you will most likely want to offer some kind of winter protection. You will at least want to be weather-aware and stock up on those items you might need in order to protect your plants in the event of a severe weather occurrence.
Furthermore, it will help to know the specifics about the types of plants you have, such as when they should be pruned, whether they should be cut back, whether they are evergreen or deciduous, and what their temperature tolerances are. Some plants require a dormant stage in order to bloom the following year; some shrubs bloom on old wood, while some bloom on new growth. Some plants are subject to heaving, which means temperature changes will cause them to lift out of the ground, exposing their crowns and roots to freezing temperatures and wind. Strawberries are famous for this. You can research your plants online or you can Ask Our Master Gardener. Bear in mind it can be extremely difficult to identify a particular type of plant from a photograph, especially if it is no longer in bloom.
So, what should you have on hand for winter plant protection?
Mulch: You've probably heard us say this over and over again, but mulch can be a life-saver, not only for protection during the winter, but also during extreme high temperatures and drought conditions. You should always have a supply of mulch in your garden shed or garage. The bags will not survive outside well, so if you don't have out-of-the-weather storage space, then buy it in the early spring or fall when it goes on sale and plan to have enough for the winter if needed.
Cloches: You might call it a garden dome or Victorian bell. Available in glass, plastic and even inexpensive Styrofoam, a cloche will cover an individual temperature-sensitive plant. For example, if you've planted a new perennial and have a sudden cold-snap, a cloche may be the answer. Or, if you have a Begonia that normally survives as a perennial in your zone but you experience a sudden cold spell, having a cloche on hand will make it easy to protect your baby. Ensure the cloche you use has a means of venting it for air circulation and be sure to remove it promptly if temperatures rise. It will be much warmer inside a clear glass or plastic cloche; just think of how the temperature rises in a closed car.
Plant Blanket: These are to cover larger areas, like a flowerbed or vegetable garden plot. You can use burlap, which provides good air circulation, though you will want to have some way to keep it up off the plants if it gets extremely wet and heavy, and you may need to find a way to tether it to the ground so it doesn't blow away. Burlap, though biodegradable, can be quite expensive and you don't want to lose it. Old bed sheets are also an option, but they have the same limitations as burlap. There are also plastic plant and seed blankets that are light enough to float over your plants, trapping heat and moisture in order to protect them. In the spring you can use them to help in germinating flower or vegetable seeds.
Row Covers: These can be of the floating type or more structured, like our Haxnicks Easy Tunnel Row Cover, which has an accordion-folding system of galvanized steel hoops that allows for versatility and easy storage, while the drawstring ends can be closed or opened as the weather dictates. These are fantastic for extending your vegetable-growing or blooming flower season, but they are also exceptional winter protection for those more tender perennial flowers or vegetables. And they are sturdy enough to last year after year after year.
Plant Protector Bags: Available in a number of sizes, these are ideally made from woven fabrics, allowing your shrubs and bushes to breathe and allowing light, air and moisture to filter through. Usually reusable, you will find plant covers ranging from the cheapest plastic versions that will probably only last one season and which may not provide air and moisture circulation, vital to the health of your shrubs and plants, to what we consider the Cadillac of frost protection bags, our Bosmere Fleece Frost Protection Bag.
We are here to answer any questions you may have once you've browsed our selection of Plant Covers. Call 1-888-907-4769 or click the link above to Ask Our Master Gardener about how to protect your winter plants from frost, wind and extreme cold temperatures.