Prepare Plants and Trees for the Freeze
It was fun while it lasted but the record high temperatures of
recent weeks are gone, replaced by icy blasts from Ole Man
Winter. Cold temperatures take their toll on plants. This
winter take some basic steps and precautions to ensure the proper
care of your lawn and garden, as recently suggested by Charles
Fenyvesi in The Washington Post.
First and foremost, don't run amuck with rock salt when treating
frozen driveways or walkways. Shrubs, grass and other plants
will wither under the onslaught as the ice melts into a salty
solution and drains off the edges of the concrete. You're better
off going with a non-salted melting product. Or better yet, try
spreading the wood ashes from the fireplace for a plant-friendly
solution. You'll get similar results plus your plants will
actually benefit from the potassium, phosphorous and calcium.
It's a good way to recycle the nutrients contained in the burned
remains of the wood. The exception is acid-loving plants such as
azaleas or rhododendrons--wood ashes are extremely alkaline and
inappropriate for these plants. Save the ashes for the spring if
you're lucky enough not to need them for de-icing purposes. But
make sure they are cold before storing them away, especially in
plastic containers. Otherwise you'll experience a melt-down.
And for you grill cooks who think you're doing your plants a
favor by spreading barbecue briquette ashes around, think again.
They contain too many chemicals and byproducts for certain
While you're outside chipping away with your shovel, stop to
consider how the ice got there in the first place. Drainage
could be a problem. After the spring thaw, make a point of
regrading the ground under your walkway. Without a crown or
slight ridge along the center, moisture tends to collect and
freeze instead of draining away. Regrade the path or remove and
reset the flagstones or brick.
When the holiday is over, don't toss the Christmas tree onto the
curb. Recycle it as mulch for your perennials. You can
actually use entire boughs to cover the beds or protect the base
of your plants. Nothing provides better protection from the
elements. Toss the boughs onto the compost pile in the spring.
To speed up the decomposition process, cut them up and mix them
with other garden waste.
One last warning for the lawn: Keep off the grass. Once frozen,
the blades and crowns become brittle and fragile. Tromping
around the lawn will damage the grass plants and make them
susceptible to disease.