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5 Smart Tips for Protecting Shrubs from Winter Damage

Protecting Shrubs from Winter Damage

Help your shrubs survive the winter with tips on how to protect them from damage from harsh weather and hungry animals. Shrubs are garden workhorses, providing visual structure, colorful flowers and foliage, and wildlife habitat year-round, even in winter. But the colder months of the year can be more challenging for these plants because of sudden cold blasts, hit-and-miss humidity and hungry creatures. Winter damage is usually evident by the following spring, when shrubs are already in recovery mode or dying. That's why it's a good idea to take some time in the fall to protect your shrubs from snow, ice, drying winds and other harsh conditions with these easy winter care tips. In return, as the weather warms again, your shrubs will reward you with lush, healthy growth.

1. Choose hardy shrub varieties

The best way to increase your shrubs' chances of surviving a cold winter is to choose plants that are suitable for your climate. When choosing shrubs, trees and other plants, check your hardiness zone and other necessary growing conditions to get the best plant for your location. If you have a shrub that continues to struggle through the winter, replace it with a species better suited to your landscape's unique growing conditions. Start your search with plants native to your area.

2. Water your plants well

Plants that are healthy and adequately hydrated have a better chance of surviving the winter. Water is often the most limited resource for growth, and one that you can provide relatively easily. Water shrubs deeply in the fall, especially if humidity is low during the growing season. Supplemental water promotes strong root growth, which is the foundation of a strong, healthy plant even after the stems go dormant. Aim to apply enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches once a week until the ground freezes.

3. Insulate roots from temperature extremes

Newly planted shrubs and those sensitive to cold temperatures in your area need extra protection at the soil level. Snow naturally helps insulate the plant's root zone and moderate soil temperatures, but you can't count on a constant 12-inch white layer every year. Spread a 4-inch layer of mulch around your shrubs to create a protective blanket. Shredded bark, leaves, straw or compost are all good mulch choices. Remove mulch at the first signs of growth in spring.

4. Prevent critter damage

Hungry deer, rabbits, mice and all their relatives can turn the bush into a winter buffet when food sources are scarce across the landscape. Unfortunately, no shrub is safe from animal damage, especially during harsh winters. A better tactic is to fence off plants that are particularly vulnerable, such as arborvitae and yews. Use a barrier around valuable or sensitive native plants.

Fencing material will vary depending on the critters you are trying to keep at bay. Rabbits, mice, and other small rodents can be wrapped around the shrub with a cylinder of ¼-inch mesh hardware cloth . Make sure your barrier extends at least 24 inches above the expected frost line. For added protection, bury the bottom edge of the hardware cloth a few inches into the ground to prevent animals from burrowing under it to access the bushes. If you want to keep deer out, you need a fence that is at least 8 feet tall.

Liquid repellents can repel deer and other animals when used frequently. Products made from strong-smelling egg solids, predator urine and slaughterhouse waste can be very effective, but you don't want to use them too close to sidewalks or outdoor seating areas if you want to save your own nose. For best results from repellents, start using them early in the season and reapply after rain or snow.

5. Protect shrubs from winter winds

Broadleaf shrubs such as rhododendrons and boxwood are particularly susceptible to drying winter winds. Strong gusts of frozen air cause plants' leaves or needles to lose water and eventually turn brown. Water The loss can be severe enough to severely damage or kill a shrub.

Creating a temporary ventilation system around vulnerable plants can help. For larger shrubs, drive some stakes into the ground around the plant in the fall. Wrap the stock with burlap or canvas cloth. Do not use plastic; This can cause harmful temperature fluctuations. For small shrubs, a plant cover is a simple solution.

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