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Protecting tender plants

Posted by on November 11th 2017 in blog

Fall Garden


Protecting Tender Plants

Some plants aren’t as tough as others.This can be a grim fact to face for northern gardeners.We invest our sweat, lower backs and money into certain plants only to see them crumple and die by the cold hands of our Minnesota winter.Our topsy-turvy winters dish out unpredictable snow cover.Weaker plants that aren’t given added protection and do not have a substantial layer of snow pack can succumb to the frost, winds, and fluctuating extreme temps.In our icy Midwest environment, any new perennials (and some old ones) can benefit from the cozy comforts of winter mulching.

Why mulch?To protect plants from the damaging cycle of freezing and thawing.The vast swing of warm and cold temperatures can destroy roots quickly.

When do I mulch?Apply winter mulch when the ground is frozen and will stay frozen for the winter.Mid November is usually the target time.

What do I mulch with?Hay, straw, or leaves.

Hay or Straw?Both will do the job.Straw is golden in color, doesn’t pack down, and is a great insulator.Hastrawy packs down, but can have seeds from weeds or grass.Sunnyside sells both straw and marsh hay.

Leaves?Leaves are a good mulch to use and are readily available.

How much mulch to use?4-6” deep around the base of the plants.

Which plants should I mulch?Any plant that is tender (some zone 4s are weaker than others), newly planted perennials, or plants that are susceptible to winter damage.

What do I do with my zone 5 plants?The immediate Twin Cities area is listed as a Zone 4.With plants that are Zone 5, an extra heavy layer of mulch is needed.Fence in the plants and fill the area with mulch, ensuring the plant will be protected and the mulch will stay for the entire winter.

What about rabbits?If the cold doesn’t kill the plants, the rabbits will.These pesky creatures feast all winter on shrubs, perennials, and trees.If rabbits are a severe problem, use the combination of chicken wire and either Liquid Fence, Shake Away, or pepper spray.

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4 Responses to Protecting tender plants

  1. carolyn morgan says:

    I just planted a beautiful hydrangea plant from Sunnyside this fall. What should I do to protect this plant and ensure it comes back as beautiful next year? Should it be trimmed/cut down this fall or next spring?

    • admin says:

      Hydrangea Care:
      I would recommend trimming your hydrangea back about 1/3rd. Then cover the
      Hydrangea with about 18″ – 24″ of leaves or marsh hay. I really only
      recommend covering if you planted an Endless Summer. Other varieties are
      more winter hardy and don’t need winter protection. If November turns warm and dry, unlike this past October, then I would recommend watering all newly planted shrubs before the ground freezes.

  2. john middlebrook says:

    Can I mulch my flower beds for winter with cypress bark mulch?

    • admin says:

      Cypress and bark mulches are primarily used for keeping weeds down,
      moisture in and for looks. When “mulching” or covering your gardens for
      winter I would recommend using hay, straw, or leaves. Wait until the
      ground freezes (usually around late November) then cover your plants with
      about 18″ of “covering mulch.”

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