Preparing Your Yard for a Big Winter!

December 6, 2019

If recent weather patterns are any indication, we’re gonna be getting some real snow this winter here in the Berkshires. Despite having our first big snowfall of the season, there’s still time to prepare your yard to avoid damage from animals and the elements, alike.

Settle Snowfall Fears

Your hydrangea blossoms may be the envy of the block, but a heavy snowfall will weigh on those lofty flower heads and take them down quickly. The best defense for all of your favorite flowers and shrubs entails adequate preparation and some light construction. First, prune back blossoms and bushes to keep their cores strong and compact. Then, look to a physical barrier for protection. Covering your plants distributes the snowfall in a balanced, manageable way, so you don’t have to worry about winter weighing your favorite blooms down. And the best part, you can repurpose your recyclables to lend a helping hand! Here are some crafty ideas for garden protection…

  • Smaller/ Individual Plants: think plastic jugs, juice or soda bottles with the bottom removed (so as not to restrict airflow). Loosely tethered plastic grocery bags also work well to ward off damage for delicate blooms.  ​
  • Medium-Sized Plants: cut or drill holes in the sides of a cardboard box to provide protection while letting in some much-needed oxygen. Just be sure to remove the box after snowfall to allow sunlight to seep in.
  • Larger Bushes/ Plants: a plastic storage tub (clear is best, if you can). If the tub is opaque, be sure to remove it as soon as possible so the sun can work its magic!
  • Gardens and/or Ground Cover: Drape a tarp, burlap sacks, or dropcloth over large surface areas and hold them in place with pots, boulders or garden stakes.

Ward Off Winter Friends

White-tailed deer are a beautiful sight here in the Berkshires, but their presence can also be problematic when it comes to your yard. Deer get especially hungry during the winter months and their munching can do real damage to plants, bushes, and trees alike. You may already be aware of their penchant for perennials, but some evergreen trees, like arborvitae and white pine, are favored foodstuffs for deer. They will eat small twigs, young bark, and any acorns, berries and buds they can find. Additionally, many young male deer rub their antlers against trees, inflicting significant damage.

So should you send them running for the hills? Not exactly. But you can be proactive in encouraging them to forage elsewhere. Here are three easy DIY-ideas to keep Bambi at bay:

  • Young or Narrow-Trunked Trees: Cut PVC piping, with a circumference several inches larger than the trunk itself, from end to end. Slip the piping around the tree when planting, and remove once it outgrows the collar. Wire or mesh fencing will also do the trick, when wrapped around the trunk.
  • Larger Trees: If you have a few prized plants, fencing, although more costly, is a tried-and-true deer deterrent. Building a fence at least 8-10 feet tall is a must to prevent the animals from leaping into your protected area. Cages made from chicken wire or other aesthetically-pleasing materials are equally effective. Remember that whatever you build needs to expand and adapt as your trees grow.
  • All Trees and Large Shrubs: Deer have an incredible sense of smell and are easily put off by artificial scents. Hang bars of soap (either nestled in old pantyhose or dangled from a rope) in the branches of your tree. The closer you can get said soap to the height of a deer’s head, the better. Want to save your Irish Spring for the shower? Animals will stay away when you spray a mixture of hot sauce or vinegar and water on branches. No one wants to lick that.

Tips To Keep Your Garden Going

Deer and snow aside, if you’re worried about how your plants will fare in freezing cold, you’re not alone. At Nature Works, we get asked about winter plant health a lot. Our main piece of advice? Insulation is your friend. Many plants will last all winter long if you use the following tricks to keep things cozy:

  • Mulch it up. Shredded leaves, mulch, or organic yard matter will protect roots when piled up around the base of your plants (½” away to prevent rotting). 2-4 inches makes for a great layer.
  • Wrap in burlap. Covering most plants in burlap will keep them warm, while allowing them to breathe. One exception: roses do not do well when covered, so stick to mulch instead.
  • Bring them in. Containers and hanging planters can be easily moved to the safety of a porch or patio. For an even smoother move, try installing wheels on heavier containers for easy adjusting.

No matter how you cut it, keeping your yard working through winter can be a challenge. But, when armed with some simple household tricks and a caring eye, you can do a lot to prevent significant damage. Use your instincts to sense if your plants are in peril (and modify your approach accordingly). And, as always, give us a call if you have any questions. We’re happy to help!

Written by Jordyn Cormier

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