This winter has been rough … and unfortunately, your plants are facing it head on. Many homeowners take precautions in the fall to batten down the hatches, so to speak, and prepare their gardens for winter storms. But in some climates, deep snows, wind, and other weather “events” are the exception rather than the rule, so you might not have prepped your garden as carefully as someone expecting poor weather.
Here are tips for readying your garden at the first foul weather report.
1. Zone in
The best way to make sure your plants will survive the winter is to choose the correct ones for your weather conditions. Before you plant, consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which can give insight into which plants will thrive in the expected climate conditions of your local area.
2. Guard your garden
Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. When designing your garden, consider planting trees strategically to shelter other plants and serve as windbreaks. Raised beds and berms can also provide protection from potential storms, as can spreading mulch around the plant roots.
3. Duck and cover
If wind, hail, and/or driving rain are expected, the best bet is to shield your smaller plants. Take planter pots, baskets, or any other large container (even patio furniture) and turn it over to act as a barrier to protect the plants. If the item is lightweight, you can put a rock or other anchor on top so it doesn’t get blown away too. Another option is to put stakes in the corners of the garden and drape tarps over them to keep the plants safe from the elements.
4. It’s a wrap
Use garden fabric (commonly called “row cover”) to cover plants and shield them from the elements. (Bonus: it also guards against pests.) Measure the material so it extends 18 inches on either side of the row and then put rocks on the outer parts so it’ll stay put. You also might try protecting tree trunks, vines, and shrubs by wrapping them with burlap. If you have evergreens, you can tie the branches about two-thirds up from where they come out from the main stem. That gives less area for the snow and ice to accumulate and potentially drag down the boughs.
5. Anchor to stay
If you have newer trees or shrubs, use stakes prior to a windstorm to help keep them in place. Pound the stakes about 2 feet down into the soil, slanted away from the plant. Then attach them to the tree with twine, making sure to leave enough slack so the tree can bend a few inches in the wind.
6. Deal with damage
If branches are dangling after a windstorm, remove them cleanly to avoid more damage as they crack off. You can replant an uprooted tree if it’s smaller, but large uprooted trees can likely not be salvaged. Be cautious when walking under trees if the branches are coated with ice and snow as they can snap and fall. And of course, if there are any downed power lines, stay clear and report them immediately to your power company.