Saturday, October 3, 2009

Winter Hibernation - Watering Perennial Crops

By Thomas Fryd

Although it is necessary to have somewhat drier conditions in late summer and fall to induce maturity in perennial garden plants, most perennials should not go into winter in extremely dry condition. A good watering around freeze-up time, after the plants begin to mature, will put the plants in better shape to survive the winter. Watering should be thorough.

Set the sprinkler near the trees and water for several hours. Remember, too, that many feeding roots of trees are in the area of the drip zone of the tree, and this is where most of the water should be applied.

Putting on Mulch

Now is the time for applying mulch protection to many garden perennials like the anthurium lady jane. Use clean grain straw (free of weed and grain seeds), marsh hay and other suitable materials. Materials such as sawdust and fallen leaves are not satisfactory since they pack down too much and may cause smothering of plants. It is important not to apply mulches too early. Plants need to be subjected to a period of a few light frosts before mulch covers are applied. This light frosting conditions the plants like anthurium lady jane so they stand the winter better. Put on the cover before severe cold sets in, however.

Apply the mulch so that it settles around the plant about two or three inches thick. If there is danger of wind blowing the mulch away, cover it with chicken wire that has been fastened down in several places. Mulches do protect plants from extreme temperature changes, drying out of the roots as a result of frost heaving, and from premature breaking of dormancy.

Strawberries and Raspberries

Most varieties of strawberries grown in the average garden are not 100 per cent winter hardy, so winter mulching is needed. Where winters are open and good snow cover is unpredictable, entire covering of raspberry canes is desirable, too. First of all, the canes which have borne fruit can be pruned out. Then bend over the remaining canes and cover them entirely with soil. They should go through the winter in this way. The roots of raspberry plants are quite hardy; but the canes, while they may go into the winter in well-matured and hardy condition, break dormancy very readily, and after that they are susceptible to damage. Complete covering of the canes is the only real insurance against winter damage.

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