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How To Prepare Your Garden For Winter - Outwit Jack Frost!

A warm and sunny late-autumn day is the perfect time to prepare trees and shrubs for cold weather to come. Thankfully, much of getting these plants ready for winter involves doing nothing; this late in the season, avoid watering, fertilizing, or pruning, because these jobs stir up plant activity at a time when trees and shrubs should be slowing down and toughening up their wood for winter before the ground freezes.

Don't loll too long, though; there are, in fact, a few things to do to ensure healthy plants come spring.

Spread four inches of mulch such as straw, chopped leaves, wood chips, or some other organic material beneath your trees and shrubs. This prevents alternate freezing and thawing of the soil, which can heave plants--especially young ones--up and out of the ground, exposing the roots to dessication in the coming months. Mulch also limits frost penetration, enabling the roots of evergreens--whose leaves transpire moisture even in winter--to take up more water. Don't pile mulch closer than three inches against the trunks; this can cause rotting.

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Make cylinders of quarter-inch mesh hardware cloth about a foot in diameter (this requires about three feet of mesh) and 18 to 24 inches high. The relatively wide diameter leaves plenty of room for growth and allows you to reach inside to pull any weeds that appear there. Push the bottom of the cylinder an inch or two into the ground to discourage burrowing beneath it.

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Repel or thwart deer. Over much of the country, deer are an increasing threat to trees and shrubs, especially in winter when other food becomes scarce. Spraying trees and shrubs with smelly, bitter, or spicy hot homemade or commercial repellents can be effective; the same can be said for hanging bars of deodorant soap and other repellents in the branches. Alternatively, keep deer away with permanent or temporary fencing, bearing in mind that with enough room on either side, a deer can leap a fence 10 feet tall. Wrapping individual whole plants with burlap is effective, but does nothing for the plant's winter appearance. A wrapping of thin-threaded black plastic mesh (sold as deer mesh) is relatively unobtrusive.

Paint the trunks of young trees with a one-to-one mixture of white latex paint and water. This reflects the sun's rays in winter, reducing sunscald, which results from the dramatic drop in bark temperature that occurs when the winter sun, after warming the bark by day, drops below the western horizon, Bark facing southwest is most susceptible.

Spray evergreens with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt-Pruf to prevent excessive moisture loss through the leaves. Damage is caused by exposure to wind and/or winter sun, so evergreens growing in direct sun on south-facing slopes or near south-facing walls will benefit most.

Horticulturist Lee Reich the garden writer for the Associated Press and author of Weedless Gardening (Workman, 2001).

COPYRIGHT 2001 © Hearst Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group


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