Winter officially begins in 10 days. With the cold snap this weekend, it will feel like winter has arrived ahead of schedule. If you haven’t yet done a great job of tucking your plants in for the colder days ahead, it’s wise to seize the opportunity.
Seek out your most tender plants to give them extra protection against the cold. Many of our low-water plants that thrive in the dry summer may not be cold hardy in near-zero temps. To protect these plants, mulch the bases either with straw or shredded wood mulch. Straw and shredded mulch are loose and fluffy and consequently, are less apt to create undesirable soggy conditions around plants.
Common landscape plants to protect include:
- Grapes which need protection from the root crown and to about 18 inches up the canes. Because the mulch will be piled high, it needs to be held in place. Wrap the pile of mulch with burlap to keep it stable.
- Other common perennials that need mulching include: pansies, roses–including Meidiland and miniature roses, mums of the less cold-hardy varieties, hibiscus and some penstemon.
- Non-native or less hardy ornamental grasses such as Mexican feather grass, northern sea oats, Japanese forest grass, blood grass and pampas grass also require mulching, but the grasses will need to be cut down to about 6 to 12 inches in height before applying the mulch. Cover the mulch with burlap to keep it in place.
More about grasses. The more cold hardy grasses common in Colorado landscapes include Karl Foerster and native grasses such as blue avena, blue fescue, little blue stem and switch grass. They are generally left uncut during the dormant season to provide winter interest.
However, if grasses get broken down by heavy snow, they may become unsightly before spring. If so, cut them back and as you prune, stagger the heights of the stems in each plant. Stems at staggered heights are more pleasing to see than a blunt cut of all stems to the same height.
General tips for winter care Warmer areas of the landscape, typically south and west-facing areas or slopes, are where the snow will melt first and expose these areas to strong winter sun that can quickly dry out the soil. On warm days, check soil moisture and be ready to drag out the hose to water lawns and other plants. Moisture is not only good for the lawn, but will also help deter turf mites that thrive in dry conditions.
Trees also require watering during winter months. Check the soil moisture and be ready to water during dry periods and when there has been minimal snowfall. Trees are often the most expensive component in our landscapes and we need to protect that investment by giving them the water they need to come back healthy next spring.
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