Friday, January 30, 2009

Winter Harsh Gardener

Hey All! I had a follow up question asking more about zone 6 plants and what happens to them during this harsh winter...

Here are some zone 6 plant families that may dieback this winter:
Japanese Andromeda
Mountain Laurel

With in these plant families are specific varieties that are hardy for zones 5 and below. Grossman's Country Nursery tends to air on the conservative side and carry varieties that are hardy so that the gardener will be successful not only during mild winters but harsh ones (like this year) as well. Where a gardener can run into trouble might lie with in the ‘box stores’. A buyer for the box store is purchasing for their territory which could be made up of multiple plant hardiness zones. They tend to have general family and varieties of plants stocked on their shelves for their entire territory. Some varieties might not be suitable to sell in one store while others would be.

If a gardener experiences any of these plants dying over a period of 3-5 years; this is an indication the plant is not conducive to the micro-climate of which they are growing. This year’s cold weather will speed up the dieback process and shorten the life span of the plant. Gardeners should heed our advice before purchasing a plant and remember; “Right plant for the right growing conditions. Then buy the plant. Buying a plant on a whim without the right advice and having it die tends to make that plant the most costly of all plants”.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Weather Plant Concerns

Right now the is cold and snowy. Here's whats going on in the garden.

With the amount of snow on the ground, covered plants are well insulated which keeps them from coming out of dormancy prematurely. Bulbs for example. Plants that are more tender, Rhododendrons, Azaleas are protected from winds by the snow cover. This will help prevent their flower buds from freezing off due to wind desiccation.

If a garden was not raked out of leaves and debris in the fall; with the high amounts of snow cover, moles and voles will have a field day because of the snow cover. Once we get a thaw and can see the ground use an organic repellent to keep the rodent problem to a minimal.

Heavy snow loads are ok on shrubs that are properly pruned to hold the weight. Snow should not be removed, but let to melt naturally. Usually the shape of a shrub will ‘bounce back’ once the snow is off. If it does not, pruning will be necessary to eliminate leggy branches. Ideally, all plants should be pruned 2x per year to prevent leggy growth.

Cold weather is great to finally have a hard freeze in the ground. As you can remember during the past few winters, the ground never froze. When high winds occur, trees were wind or top heavy and pulled out of the ground because the ground was water laden and soft. Roots right now are locked in and high winds should not be a problem at this time.

Plants are very resilient. The weather is not so unusual to plants that are hardy to zone 5 or less. Because we have been tempted with mild winters in the past 5 or so years, gardeners have been experimenting with plants that are zone 6-7 hardy. These plants will probably die back and possibly die off. Gardeners will be mindful to realize they can only temp Mother Nature so long before she kicks us in the butt with a brutal cold winter like this one. Global warming doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to have a mild winter. Though this has been the case for several years, I think we all can recall the days past when this type of winter was the norm.