Insulating Plants for Winter

Preparation is one of the most important steps to take before you pack away your lawn and garden tools for the winter season. Not only can an ill-prepared yard result in more work come spring, it can also lead to damaged and diseased plants.  

Whether you're protecting potted plants, garden beds or recently planted trees and shrubs, here are some ways you can insulate your plants and keep them out of harm's way this winter.

Potted Plants

Depending on your plant hardiness zone, container gardening can become difficult during the winter. Aside from protection against cold temperatures, potted plants also require defense from wind, harsh sunlight and drying soil. However, the biggest threat to potted plants is root damage caused by frequent, extreme temperature change.

Unlike a plant in your garden bed, the roots of potted plants receive less insulation from harsh weather, making them more susceptible to damage.

An easy option is to bring potted plants indoors and place them in an area that receives an appropriate amount of sunlight.

You can also place your potted plants in a cluster alongside your house, keeping the least hardy plants closest to your home's exterior. Once you've grouped your pots together, mulch overtop of the base of each plant to provide exterior insulation. If you have enough burlap, bubble wrap or old blankets, you can wrap the perimeter of your cluster to add further insulation along the sides of your plants.

Garden Beds

Most cold-hardy perennials can sleep through winter beneath blankets of snow, but in areas with light or no snowfall at all, winter's chill can be devastating to your garden beds.

To prepare hardy or recently planted perennials, make sure weaker plants are deeply watered before the ground freezes; without snow, dehydration is a primary risk factor throughout winter. Once the ground has frozen, give new or less-hardy plants a generous layer of mulch - 2 to 4 inches.

You can also install a DIY garden fence using four posts, chicken wire and either bubble wrap or plastic sheeting. Install the posts at each corner of your garden, wrap chicken wire around the perimeter of your posts and then layer bubble wrap or plastic sheeting over the chicken wire. This will help alleviate wind force. If you're not expecting much snowfall, you can also use plastic sheeting as a roof during extreme cold spells.

Saplings and Shrubs

For newly planted trees and shrubs, a traditional burlap wrap works best. Keep in mind that if you receive heavy snow, it's recommended to use stakes to prevent branches from breaking.

Before you start wrapping, use about 2 to 4 inches of mulch to insulate the base of the tree or shrub.

When it's time to start placing burlap around your trees and shrubs, start from the top and work your way around until you reach the ground, then work your way back up again. Two to three layers of burlap should be plenty. Once you've finished wrapping, use a large pin or a piece of twine to tie and hold it in place. If you don't use stakes, make sure not to wrap too tightly so you don't break branches.  

The Dirt from Troy-Bilt®
November/December 2016