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5 Things Your Landscaper Forgot To Tell You To Do This Winter

Now that the colder weather is upon us and we've wrapped up all of our fall cleanup most of us are looking forward to getting in front of the fireplace and curling up with all the new seed catalogs emerging in the mail. However, don't get too comfortable! I'm here to remind you that being a gardener never really ends regardless of the season. Here are a few of the things I forgot todo when the weather was nice (This post actually started out as a list for me to do!) and Im sure things your landscaper forgot to do for you this fall. 

1.)  Give some protection to your recently planted broadleaf evergreens.

First year broadleaf evergreens (Rhododendron, Kalmia, Mountain Laurel, Azalea, etc) are highly susceptible to winter damage including breakage by heavy snow load and sun damage. Most of us assume that since the plants are several years old they are mature enough to hold their own. However, understand that this may very well be their first winter exposed to the outdoors without the protection of a cold frame. The cold frames protect them from harsh winter winds and the heavy burden of snow load. By building a small TeePee covered with burlap or A frame made out of plywood for the plants this will help them transition to the great outdoors. It's only necessary for the first year or so depending on the size of the plant. Make sure to take into consideration snow load which may come off adjacent roofs and fall into your newly planted beds. I've destroyed more plants this way, just by forgetting about this during the summer months when winter is the farthest thing from my mind. These structures also help protect the plants from sun scald. Many times we forget when we plant that in the winter adjacent trees will drop their leaves  exposing the newly planted evergreens to full sun conditions and burning the leaves. which brings us to our next item...

2.) Apply an antidessicant to your evergreens

Anti desiccants are one of the most underutilized tools in a gardeners arsenal. The purpose of these easy to use sprays are to help your evergreens retain necessary moisture in their foliage. Especially with newly planted evergreens planted in the fall, roots have not yet established themselves into surrounding soil by the time winter sets in. On a sunny or windy day in the middle of winter the leaves will release their moisture and not be able to replace it due to the soil being frozen and limited root growth into the surrounding soil. This results in dead brown foliage by spring which becomes apparent. This can many times be identified by dead foliage on the southern side of the plant when its sun damage and on the North or Northwest side when its from wind damage. The protective structures in the previous combined with an antidessdicant  will provide newly established plants the best protection of physical and environmental damage. The liquid comes as a ready to go spray bottle or as a concentrate which can be mixed with water when larger quantities are needed. As an added benefit, most deer repellent sprays can be mixed with anti desiccants and are held longer on the plant than when just using the repellent alone. we find it most useful to perhaps apply twice during the winter usually when the temperature is above 50 degrees. Follow the directions on your particular brand for best results.

3.) Prune those fruit trees

Late winter pruning of fruit trees is fantastic for the tree and fantastic for you. In the fall the accumulated food created during the summer is transported from the leaves to the root system of the tree to be stored for use in spring when it is most needed for growth and flowering. When the food has moved, the leaves fall and the tree becomes dormant for the winter. Winter thus becomes the best time of the year to prune. Not only can you easily see the branching structure of the tree, but you will also not be removing any of the stored food. As a result, in the spring the tree will be set for explosive growth as it will have all the food to use for a tree significantly larger than what you have pruned it down to. Expect lots of new growth in spring and a strong fruit set. In addition, this is a great activity to get out of the house on a nice winters day and enjoy the outside. This goes as well for fruit trees which are grown for their flowers such as Crabapples and Callery Pears.

 4.) Sharpen those Mower blades and pruners

This kind of goes without saying but sharp blades on both your pruners and mowers will help increase the efficiency of your work 10 fold. I have pretty much always been negligent in this area. This past winter after my pruners had seized from lack of care, I took the time to read up on sharpening them and long term care. I had never really noticed how difficult pruning had become until I sharpened them. this of course led to sharpening all of the associated loppers, clippers, and finally the mower blades. When spring arrived I was shocked at how enjoyable and easy it had become. 

5.) Use what's around you for for winter mulch

I'm a big fan of winter mulching. After the leaves drop and most plants have gone dormant I first use available leaves to mulch around plants which may need a bit of extra protection for the winter. For example, In my Zone 5 garden most climbing roses are marginally hardy. However I find I get a much better success rate when I protect them with a large pile of leaves around the base. As the winter moves along, I also supplement the leaves with available snow. 

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  • Ulysses Hedrick