Dig It! Early Winter Gardening Tips
Sage and Snow Garden Club
by Bettina Sparrow
October 30, 2006
Limit Frost Heave
Unprotected ground that alternately freezes and thaws also expands and contracts. This soil movement breaks roots and can make plants pop out of the ground. Shallow-rooted plants, such as chrysanthemum, Shasta daisy, fall-planted pansies and other small flowers, are especially susceptible to frost heave.
To limit frost heave, mulch the soil with a 4 to 6 inch layer of organic material in autumn after the soil has frozen slightly. Instead of keeping the soil warm, the mulch helps keep the soil frozen all winter and prevents wide temperature fluctuations at the base of the plants.
You may also be able to use mulch to keep hardy vegetables, such as carrots and parsnips, in good shape in the ground through winter. Mulch the soil with 6 to 12 inches of loose organic matter such as straw before the ground freezes. This will prevent it from freezing deeply, if at all.
Continue to Water Plants
Fall and winter watering is important for all plants, but especially evergreens that continue to lose water through their leaves during the winter. Remember that even in winter, sun and wind cause leaves to dry out rapidly. Roots will replace the lost moisture if there is water in the soil and the soil is not completely frozen. The best water management strategy for evergreens is to have the soil evenly moist through fall and as wet as possible (short of standing water) prior to the soil freezing. If natural rainfall or melting snow is limited, water during temporary warm spells when the soil thaws.
In all climates, you may need to occasionally water plants that grow beneath your house's eaves, even though the weather may be wet. The soil under the eaves may remain dry and plants growing there may be damaged from the combination of dry roots below ground and dessicating winds above the surface.
Use soil and compost to protect your roses. After pruning, apply a mixture of soil, shredded leaves and compost to the top of the rose until only the tips of the canes poke out. Once temperatures stay above freezing pull away the mulch gradually until it forms a ring around your rose.
Put a piece of chicken wire around tree trunks to keep rabbits from chewing and deer from rubbing on the tree. Leave a couple of inches of clearance between the tree and the wire. Remove or replace the wire when there is less than 2 inches of clearance
Use an antidessicant spray on evergreens to protect from wind damage. This coats leaves with wax to prevent moisture loss.
Wrap young tree trunks with white geotextile tree wrap to keep the sun from splitting the trunk. Remove the wrap in spring or let it degrade (this will happen in 6 to 9 months).
Sage and Snow Garden Club
The Sage and Snow Garden Club meets the second Tuesday each month at noon in the Pinedale Library. If you have questions about the Garden Club, or anything in this article, or would like to provide ideas for future articles, please contact the Sage and Snow Garden Club at firstname.lastname@example.org or Box 2280, Pinedale, WY 82941 or come to one of our meetings.