Upper South

January, 2008
Regional Report

Hope for Snow

Snow may mean treacherous driving, but besides the beauty it also brings, snow is good for the garden and landscape. It provides moisture as well as protection because it acts as an excellent insulator against low temperatures and excessive winds. Conversely, heavy snows can break branches, so it should be gently removed with a broom. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to our region is that frigid temperatures, which can be quite damaging to plants, are more likely than snow. So if it does snow, welcome it for your plants' sake at least.

Increase Humidity Around Houseplants

As winter settles in and the thermostat creeps up, the humidity in our homes continues downward, causing the growing conditions for houseplants to deteriorate. One way to combat this that is good for both plants and their owners is to install a whole-house humidifier. Short of that, one of the simplest solutions is to group houseplants together. Take it a step beyond and group them on a pebble-filled tray that holds water. An alternative is to use capillary matting. Another option is to set a cool-mist humidifier among plants.

Utilize Christmas Trees

Many municipalities offer the service of taking in discarded Christmas trees and turning them into mulch or compost. Another option is to keep the trees and cut the branches into smaller boughs that are then laid over perennials. This helps to moderate soil temperatures and prevent the plants from being heaved out of the soil from freezing and thawing temperatures. Or the trees can be set into a bucket of sand outdoors near the bird feeder to provide a sheltered roosting site.

Protect Against Sunscald

The heat from winter sun, plunging nighttime temperatures, and wind can damage bark on trees and shrubs, injuring or killing plants. Sun scald is characterized by elongated, sunken, dried, or cracked areas of dead bark, usually on the south or southwest side of a tree. Newly planted or young trees and thin-barked trees are most susceptible. To prevent, wrap the trunk with a commercial tree wrap, plastic tree guards, or other light-colored material. The wrap reflects the sun, keeping the bark at a more constant temperature. Remove the wrap in the spring after the last frost.

Attend a Seminar

Botanical gardens, plant societies, and assorted other garden groups often hold seminars during the winter when gardeners have a bit more free time. These are a great opportunity not only to learn about a subject, but also to meet and get to know other gardeners. One way to find these is to check with your local or regional botanical garden or arboretum. Also, many garden magazines have an Events section.

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