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Settle Them In for a Warm Winter’s Nap

Winter Birds Photo By Larry Hurley

As the cold season approaches there are several things to do for your trees and shrubs to ease their stress during the coldest months of winter. In general it is a good idea to apply fresh mulch around your plants after the ground has frozen and you have raked up the fallen leaves. This will to help to minimize the effects of freezing and thawing.

Roses, my favorite plant, do well in our area, but they benefit from a little extra care. Let them experience some really cold weather first to be sure that their canes have ripened and are ready for winter. Then, just before Christmas you may want to cut the longest canes on bush roses to about 2 feet so that the winter winds will not whip them about too much.

The most important step in winter care is just piling up some extra soil and mulch around the plants so that the natural moisture in the soil will keep the roses somewhat warmer and protect them from the drying winter winds. Simply take the surrounding soil and mulch and heave it up to about 8-12 inches high around the plant. Come early spring you just level the soil and mulch with your garden rake and your roses are ready for the spring.

Broadleaf evergreens are somewhat tender for this area, especially when planted in fall. I suggest that you spray them with an anti-transpirant, such as Wiltpruf®, to help protect their tender leaves. Apply the spray on a warm day when the temperature is between 40° and 70° . I usually wait until just before Christmas because the protection lasts only about 8 weeks. Other newly-planted trees and shrubs, such as fig trees, crape myrtles, and magnolias, could benefit from a little extra care.

I recommend burlap screening for these plants for the first two years or so. Simply anchor three tall stakes around the plant, and wrap burlap around them, stapling the burlap securely to the stakes. I usually fill the screen loosely with the fallen leaves from my shade trees. The leaves provide ideal protection because the rain and snow will filter though the leaves but cold wind cannot penetrate.

My favorite fruit tree, the fig, gets this little extra protection in the winter. In spring I am rewarded with an early crop of figs, which is produced on the older wood which has survived the winter. In addition, I will get another crop of fresh figs in late fall. The sweetness of a fresh-picked fig, like that of a homegrown tomato, cannot be bought in any store and, since the fig tree is one fruit tree that requires no spraying, the figs can be eaten fresh off the tree.

by Helmut Jaehnigen, Woody Plants Specialist

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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