||By Lyn Chimera|
Now is the time for action! It’s time to protect your garden for the upcoming season. Whether you have critter problems or are protecting your plants against harsh weather conditions, a little effort now can make the difference between a healthy, munched on, or dead plant come spring.
A big issue is critter control! Damage from deer, rabbits, and mice can be devastating to many shrubs and trees. Your yard may wind up looking like a fortress, but preventative measures really work!
First let’s look at deer protection:
• Fencing is the most effective way to prevent deer from making a salad bar out of your shrubs. There are many types of protective fencing available including a sturdy mesh that is not too visible from the street. All you need are some wood or metal stakes to attach the fencing to. It’s very easy and works great! Just make sure you have the barrier far enough from the plant and high enough so the deer can’t reach over it. Remember, they can stand up on their hind legs to eat! Burlap or snow fencing can also be used.
• Deer sprays can also be affective but need to be reapplied and are not advised for application in temperatures below 50 degrees.
Next on the damage control list are rabbits and mice.
• Placing a cylinder of ¼-inch mesh hardware cloth around the trunk will keep gnawing pests away from young trees. The cylinder should extend 2 to 3 inches below the ground level for mice and 18 to 24 inches above the anticipated snow line for rabbit protection.
• Having the top of the hardware cloth well above the snow line is crucial as the rabbits can just hop on top of deep snow, over the barrier, and munch away. Hardware cloth can be left on year-round, but it must be larger than the trunk to allow for growth and removed as soon as the trunk grows enough to get close.
• For small trees, plastic tree guards are also effective.
• You can protect shrub beds from rabbits by fencing the beds with chicken wire supported by metal rods or wooden stakes. It’s necessary, however, to check such fenced areas frequently to ensure a rabbit has not gained entrance or is trapped inside. It’s also helpful to bend 8 to 10 inches of the bottom of the chicken wire along the surface of the ground so the rabbits can’t dig under the wire. The top of the chicken wire needs to be well above the snow line as well.
• The freezing winds of winter can be terribly damaging to some shrubs. I use burlap around the smaller shrubs because it also serves as a protection against deer. I find a pyramid shape works well to keep the snow from building up. Just tie the tops of the wooden or metal stakes with some twine. This also helps prevent snow build up.
• Any newly planted or tender perennials should be given an extra thick layer of mulch to help prevent the ground temperature from fluctuating. It’s the repeated freezing and thawing of the soil that causes plants to “heave” or be pushed up out of the soil. It’s important not to mulch BEFORE THE GROUND FREEZES, however. Mulching too soon invites small rodents who are looking for a warm spot for the winter to snuggle in.
• I usually wait until after the holidays for this chore and cut up some pine boughs to lay over the plants and shrubs (see picture). They are easy to put down and easily removed in the spring. Discarded Christmas trees are readily available.
One last thought...Leaves are a wonderful resource. Please don’t waste them. There are lots of ways to use nature’s leaf bounty:
• Mulch them with your lawn mower and leave them on the grass! A certain amount of mulched leaves is an excellent natural fertilizer for your lawn.
• If the leaves are too thick to leave them all on the lawn, mulched leaves are a wonderful addition to a compost pile.
• Mulched leaves are also excellent as soil amendment in your garden beds. Just scatter the mulched leaves throughout the garden. It’s like stewing colorful confetti! Once the ground freezes you can also use them as a mulch to protect tender perennials and shrubs.
• If you still have leaves left over, store the mulched dry leaves in garbage bags or containers and use them as soil amendments and leaf mold next spring. Leave the tops open to allow for heat and excess moisture to escape.
• I also scatter mulched leaves under shrubs and into ground cover. It decomposes and is great way to fertilize.
It all sounds like a lot of work, but it’s well worth it in the long run! HAPPY GARDENING!
Lessons From Nature
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