In autumn, when your garden hibernates, your job is over... except the planning for next year. In winter, the garden is at the mercy of the elements and the most fragile plants could be in danger. This problem is aggravated if the soil is badly drained and the garden exposed to prevailing winds.

Why protect plants?

  • Because water is no longer available in the frozen soil, winter winds can dry out evergreen and coniferous foliage.
  • A temporary thaw followed by a cold spell could freeze the buds of the most fragile plants.
  • The bark of young trees exposed to the sun could heat up quickly and split when cold nighttime temperatures triumph.
  • De-icing salts could burn foliage near roadways and sidewalks.
  • The weight of snow and ice could deform some plants, particularly upright or columnar conifers.

Natural protection

One of the best protections against cold and sudden temperature change is a thick coat of snow. Unless it's mechanically piled up, snow is usually relatively light and will wrap itself around plants without compromising their shape. In fact, more plant varieties will grow perennially in areas that have a lot of snow, all other things being equal.

You can help increase snow coverage by leaving the stalks and foliage on perennials until spring. An even more useful method is to cover the most fragile plants with branches of conifers. The snow will have no problem hanging onto the needles, and it is a beautiful sight.

Shovelled snow or snow thrown up by a snowblower is too heavy and dense for our use, as its weight could damage plants.

Proper protection starts on the ground. Think of the area just below the surface as sheltering the heart of the plant and its reserves for spring growth. Protect these roots from extreme temperatures by applying 10 to 15 cm of mulch every fall. Fallen leaves make an excellent supplement if you go over them with the mower to break them into small pieces, so they don't form a crust in winter.

You'll want to bank the earth, mixed with compost, around some of the more fragile plants, like Roses and Grapevines. Botanix Forest Compost is ideal for this.

Protective material

When the weight of snow or ice seems to be a problem, rope or nylon cord can protect your conifers almost invisibly. Your most delicate shrubs can also be tied up this way.

Protecting your plants from the wind or de-icing salts requires something more robust, such as snow fences, which are solid, but not airtight. You can wrap them around the base of conifers or make shelters to completely cover small bushes or globular conifers. These, in turn, can be covered with jute or geotextile, such as the white geotextile developed specifically for winter protection.

Since our winters last for several months, remember your garden must not be an eyesore in any season. To keep it looking good in winter, avoid clashing colours, and create conceptual continuity by using the same materials throughout the garden.

Rodents

Because food is harder to come by in winter, field mice and other small rodents go after the cambium layer situated just under the tender bark of young trees. Under cover of snow, they go about their destruction unnoticed. If they chew through the bark in a continuous circle around the tree, the tree will die.

  • To protect your trees from this threat, wrap the base in the perforated white plastic strips or metal webbing sold expressly for this purpose.
  • You could also compact snow around the trunks to make it more difficult for them.

Installing winter protection

Install your winter protection as late as possible – when the ground is frozen and the leaves have fallen to give your plants a chance to prepare for winter.

Pierce your cones in several places and generally make sure you allow for air circulation through your barriers to avoid disease and mold.

Removing winter protection

When the soil begins to thaw, remove the winter protection. If it looks like it's going to get cold again, you can always replace them over the most delicate plants.

In order to avoid shock from temperature change and foliage burning from the sun, only remove the protection from evergreens and conifers on a cloudy day.

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