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Guard your garden against winter weather
Pine straw and trash bags can protect some plants
0102WINTER-PLANT
Frost and snow may land in Northeast Georgia this winter. Therefore, experts suggest protecting your plants.

With colder months quickly approaching and forecasts of frigid winters on the horizon, home gardeners begin preparing their beds to brave the freezes to ensure the survival of greenery and flowers.

Many gardeners and landscapers simply pick hardy plants to put in their gardens because of how volatile seasons can be in Northeast Georgia.

Josh Everett of New Leaf Landscape Services said this season plants have gotten plenty of water because of rains, so they are generally healthy and ready to withstand the winter. Plants have also had time to acclimate to the changing conditions.

“They will adapt to the environment that they are around,” Everett said. “They will adapt to the middle ground. So if they are used to full sun, they can survive in partial sun. But if a plant isn’t somewhat hardy to begin with, I’m not sure if the plant could ever withstand some of the winters that we are having around here.”

Winter freezes are sometimes sudden, and plants with foliage can be more susceptible to damage because of the exposed blooms.

“I’ve seen people put trash bags on branches with blooms on them to protect them,” Jeremy Echols of Jaemor Farms said. “We cover our strawberries with a warming tarp. We uncover them to pick them and then cover them back up if we have a fall or winter harvest.”

However, sometimes protecting the first blooms can be hazardous to the plant as a whole. Delicate plants such as roses are in danger during the cold months, but Echols waits a little longer to snip off the blooms.

“It pays not to prune knockout roses until February so the frost burns just the top of the plant instead of all the way to the root,” he said. “We cut ours about 18 inches from the ground after the early freezes.”

Trees are hardy plants that don’t need much protection, but young fruit plants such as blueberry bushes or grapevines might need a little extra insulation. Pomegranates and figs are also more delicate.

“You can mound around the base of young grapevines or bushes for more insulation,” Echols said. “Our fig trees got killed last year, but we cut them down to the ground and they’ll shoot out from the roots. There wasn’t much of a fig crop this year.”

Placing plants on the southern side of a building also helps block some of the northern winds that can be detrimental. Last season, the frigid temperatures and frequent snow killed a few specific plants in many gardens.

“Indian hawthorn, that was the plant you saw dead in everyone’s yard,” Everett said. “We’ve planted very few of those this year. We’ve been choosing hardier plants. Azaleas seem to do OK.”

For other flowers and weaker plants that can’t be covered with trash bags, Everett suggests another form of insulation.

“Really, in this part of the country, there’s not a whole lot you can do, but if you know there’s going to be a strong freeze, you can put a layer of pine straw on top of seasonal color plants to insulate them from the hard freeze,” Everett said. “Any insulation you can add to them is going to help.”

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