Today is Friday, December 19, 2014

Bed Sheets Keep Plants Cozy On Frozen Nights

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The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs  and landscaping to Steve Jones and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit Steve's Website at www.landsteward.org 

With winter almost upon us, we need to be prepared to protect plants from a sudden cold snap.

QUESTION: “I am from Texas and currently I’m living in Ft. Drum, NY, because my husband is in the service. I am not used to snow and I have some plants that I need to know how to take care of. “They are in my flower bed and are perennials and I don’t know if I am  supposed to cover them with some sort of plastic or mulch or just dig them up and put them in the garage. I have a red spike plant, lavender salvia, dusty millers, and hostas. I also have a tomato plant that is in a flower pot with a tiny tomato beginning to grow on it. ”Since the weather is changing here, I need to know what I can do. If there is any advice that you can give me, I would appreciate it.” – Brenda

ANSWER: No need to dig them up, Brenda! I know that some gardeners like to put plastic garbage bags over vulnerable plants, and that’s okay in a pinch; for instance if you find out that a freeze is imminent and garbage bags are all you have. However, my best suggestion is to use cloth sheets, such as old bed sheets. If you don’t have any old sheets, you could invest in some ultra-cheap bed sheets from a dollar store or a thrift store and keep them in the garage or shed specifically for this purpose. I prefer cloth sheets to plastic sheeting as they allow a better and more natural air flow around the plants. Gently lay the cloth sheets over the plants in the evening, weighting down the edges with rocks if you are expecting strong winds that might blow them away. The next morning, after it begins to warm, simply remove the sheets and put them where they can dry out a bit and are ready for the next chilly night. On the subject of adverse weather conditions, several readers have asked about an article that my wife Cheryl wrote on the subject. Titled “Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Flooding and Storms,” it includes tips on what to do when natural disasters strike.  You can find it on her blog at http://www.cherlysnotebook.blogspot.com.

QUESTION: “I was wondering if you could help me decide what kind of hedges, trees, etc. to plant along our property line. The area is WET. We’ve tried growing evergreens (3 rounds) and every time they die — too much water. Our neighbor planted river birches along his property line, but I want some hedges as well. Any ideas as to what kind of hedge can withstand lots of water? I would appreciate your help.” – Cristina Elliott

ANSWER: There are a number of plants that like nothing better than a location that keeps their feet wet! When you have a wet landscape, it is pointless to plant shrubs and trees whose natural environment is normal to dry soil as they’ll never live up to your expectations… or even live, for that matter. Several azaleas (including Coastal, Sweet, Pinkshell and Swamp) like wet areas, as do the Dogwood varieties Tartarian, Silky and Red Osier. In fact, those three can even grow in a certain amount of standing water.

Winterberry, some varieties of Viburnum, Fothergilla and Red Chokeberry are also options, as is Bordeaux yaopon holly, which has the charming scientific name Ilex vomitoria Bordeaux! There’s an excellent Web site, hosted by North Carolina State University that provides a comprehensive list of wetland-loving plants. Click on each listing and you can see descriptions, details, growing tips and (in most cases) photos. Well worth a visit if you’re dealing with soggy soil! You can find this website by Clicking Here.

As that is a long address, you might prefer to find this column at my Web site http://www.landsteward.org where you can click on a hot link.

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