Covering and Snow Cover

Picture 360 One of the last, and most difficult outside tasks at the nursery is to cover the plants that are in containers for the winter. This is very weather dependant, and can happen from the first week in November to the first week in December. We finished covering this year last Tuesday. The timing is to have the containers very chilled to frozen, but not to have been uncovered in temps below the upper teens. Lower than that, especially for long periods of time, could result in damage to the plants. Keep in mind that while many of the plants are hardy to various below zero temperatures, that hardiness is if the plant is in the ground, not in a pot. In the ground, the temperature is modified around the roots and crown, not so in a pot. Also the ground helps to prevent wide fluctuations in the root zone, while a pot can vary widely from freezing to thawing in just a few hours. This year it was more difficult than usual because of the heavy snow so early in the month, making it impossible to cover the plants. Then we got very cold and windy conditions that made it hard to handle the large poly blankets that would become kites in your hands due to the wind. We did manage to find a few breaks in the weather to finally get it all done. The snow came the night we covered the very last block of plants. The snow is a blessing in that it adds an extra layer of insulation for the plants, and at the same time, helps to keep the covers in place during high winds. Nothing like looking out to see the covers blown up into the trees. We do anchor them down, but some winds are just too strong. The snow we have now is certainly doing just that. While snow is the best insulator for plants in winter, my concern now is that before it snowed, we had temps up to 60, thawing the ground quite a bit. The snow was wet, mixed with rain, and is now melting slowly from the bottom up. The plants in the ground are now in a very wet environment under the snow. It will take some very cold temps to freeze that area through the snow. Those plants that have trouble with poor drainage and water around the roots and crown in winter might experience some damage. We have lost bloodroot under such conditions. Nothing one can do, except make sure that those vulnerable plants are sited well for such conditions when it happens. It may be a good thing if we should loose this snow due to rain or higher temperatures, and then have some cold days to dry and freeze the ground, followed by a drier snow. It seems our winter weather patterns are on a rollercoaster ride temperature wise, and precipitation is going to be heavier and wetter. The Northeast has, and is predicted to continue to recieve more moisture than has been normal. The timing and form will determine how beneficial it may be.

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