Have we’ve started cleaning up our garden beds? Here is one last thing we should do after we get the beds cleaned up. We must protect our more delicate perennials, mums, roses and even some of our trees and shrubs this winter. Actually, we can protect more than just the delicate plants. Winter winds, animals, the freezing and thawing we have here in Wisconsin can destroy all of our hard work in just one winter season.
We can achieve this protection with using screening, animal repellents, mulching and products that help hold moisture on some our more tender evergreens and broad-leaf evergreens.
What is an anti-transpirant and how does it work? In the winter when there are harsh winds and the ground is frozen, plants are not getting their natural moisture intake so they may burn. An anti-transpirant provides the plants with a protective coating to help them hold their moisture. There are many different anti-transpirants, one type that I use for more than just protecting my Dwarf Alberta Spruce from windburn is Wilt Pruf. It is a natural pine oil emulsion that is non-hazardous, organic, and biodegradable. There are others anti-transpirants which also work, these you may find at your local garden shop. Protect these shrubs from winter burn or moisture loss, rhododendrons, azaleas, hollies, boxwood, arborvitae.
Anti-Transpirants have a couple other uses this time of year.
1) Tubers and bulbs do better in storage when first sprayed or dipped in Wilt Pruf. This would also be good sprayed on the roots if you are storing geranium plants bare-root.
2) It will protect and extend the life of your Christmas trees, wreaths, roping and swags. You will be shocked at now much longer they will hold their needles.
Screening/Wind Breaks/Tree Wrap
Winter winds can be brutal here in Wisconsin. Wind breaks or screening can help strong winds from directly blowing on and damaging your trees or shrubs. Materials such as burlap, plastic or tight netting stretched over stakes that are driven into the ground will help to reduce damage. Make a screen that allows good air circulation. Creating a screen so that it is not actually touching the plants. Screening is mainly for slowing the winds down so there is no reason to tightly encase the entire plant.
Use tree wrap to protect young trees from "sunscald", this is when then bark splits do to the heat of the sun on exposed sides of trees on really cold winter days and for frostbite of young tree bark. Trunks can also be protected against deer or rodents feeding on the bark with a wire mesh extending two to three inches into the ground and 18 to 24 inches above the expected snow line.
Mulching perennial plants is one of the best ways to assure that your plants will have a better chance of survival during the winter. We have repeated freezing and thawing of soil which causes plants to "heave" out of the ground. This is one reason we lose hardy mums. They have a really shallow root system and many are lost without the protection of mulching.
Never mulch too soon though. Mulching needs to be done after the ground starts to freeze but hopefully before the first large snowfall of the season. If you mulch to early you will have mice and other rodents nesting in the mulch plus the plants may not be completely dormant. Usually the end of November is a good time to apply mulch if the ground starts to freeze. Pine needles, straw, compost, chopped leaves, or shredded bark are great materials to use.
Two to three inches around each plant should be good. Leave a little space around the truck which gives the plants room to breathe. This may help prevent disease too. Mulching deeper (four inches) may be needed in areas that are in windy spots.
Top dress or mound roses with 6 to 8 inches compost, garden soil or mulch. Again wait until the ground begins to freeze. You want to make sure that the graft of tender roses are protected. I’m not a fan of styrofoam rose cones. On sunny days they can heat up to much and the roses could start growing to early. Make sure there are some air holes in the cone if using them. There is a paper cone with slits in them already that you may find at your local garden shop.
Climbing roses can be wrapped with burlap and stuffed with straw or the entire trellis can be laid down then mulched with compost and straw.
Deer, rabbits, gophers, mice, voles and squirrels can cause major damage not only in the winter but year round. There are many natural and organic products to repel them. Some of these products even work under snow cover.
Fencing is another solution that works but it may not be something you wish to use. You may also
try dog fur or human hair. If you don’t have a dog, go to a dog groomer. They should be happy to give away fur. As well as the beauty shop giving you some fresh cut hair. These both work for awhile but the birds love it and will build their nests with it.