Our cold Philadelphia winters aren’t just hard on us—they’re hard on our gardens and landscaping too! But despite the hardship many plants, trees, and shrubs endure over the winter, all is not lost, and you needn’t surrender your garden design to the low temperatures.
How to Protect your Plants and Trees from Cold Weather
Each type of garden life will react differently to winter—particularly trees, shrubs, and plants. So let’s look at each aspect of your garden design individually…
Trees are some of nature’s heartier plants, which means they weather winter quite well for the most part. Trees meant for warm weather, however, will require specific care and should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
While trees generally do well over winter, they do have a couple of weak spots that you can help them with—most notably root injury and frost heaving. Root injury occurs when frost penetrates the ground deep enough to damage the roots of the tree. You can give your trees a hand by using mulch, which acts as an insulator to (somewhat) protect the roots. If you have a freshly planted or transplanted tree, mulch can help protect the roots from any gaps in the backfilling.
The other issue with trees in winter is frost heaving, which is caused by freezing and thawing (making the soil expand and contract). Adding a layer of mulch, 4 to 6 inches deep, can help maintain a more steady temperature and prevent the heaving action.
So the answer to protecting trees in winter is, in many cases, mulch.
If your trees are damaged already from frost, don’t prune until they’re healthy again, and cover any areas where bark has been removed.
There is a fairly easy way to protect shrubs from frost: cover them with a blanket. While this isn’t practical for the entire winter, it can help in a flash frost in fall or spring.
This category is extremely broad, so we’ll try to cover as much as we can. However for fickle plants, especially warm-weather plants, you’ll need to consult their specific cold-weather rules.
Unfortunately, some plants simply aren’t designed to make it through the winter, especially less hearty species. Plants especially vulnerable to frost can be dug up, potted, and brought in doors. Similarly, plants with bulbs can be dug up, and the bulbs can be stored for the winter in a cool, dry place.
If the first frost is impending but hasn’t hit yet, thoroughly water your plants before they frost or freeze. This will give them a layer of insulating water and help collapse any air tunnels (which lets frost get to the roots).
If you’ve spent ample time and money on your garden design and want to ensure that it makes it through the winter and is resplendent for spring—contact us. Our professionals here at Blue Tree can help you prepare your garden design for winter…and beyond.