It is now the 3rd week in December and for the most part the grass is still green, and some of the shrubs and the underbrush still have not lost all of their leaves. There has been only one light snow event, and the coldest overnight low so far was in the low twenties. Many perennial plants still have some green leaves, and I have seen some creeping phlox plants blooming! I had a customer call the other day and said their daffodils are already sprouting, some are already 3” tall! Many perennial plants are very confused!
What is going on with our weather, and moreover, what should we be doing for our plants to protect them from winter, if it does decide to show up?
There is some good news on several fronts. This fall we have had plenty of rain and the ground is very moist. Good soil moisture helps stabilize the soil temperature and keeps the ground from having large day/night temperature swings, which is very damaging to plants and their root systems. Secondly, there is not a wicked cold front in our near future like the one we had last year right before Christmas. Dry soil, like we had last fall/winter, followed by a brutal cold front is damaging to plants. We had many customers lose some plants over last winter, due to this chain of events.
What can be done to prevent this from happening again?
The best action to take is mulching. Make sure all your beds have at least 2” of mulch, 3”-4” is even better. If you have leaves that have blown into your flower beds, leave them there! They will provide more insulation as well and protect the existing foliage. This goes for the daffodils too! If the foliage is completely covered by leaves or mulch, that is better than being exposed to the elements. These measures will greatly increase the chances of your perennials surviving winter.
If there are long dry spells during the late fall or winter in the future, turn on the sprinkler. Yes, I said turn the sprinkler on for 20-30 minutes per location in your yard and flower beds. Moisture and proper mulching give your plants a fighting chance in these weird winters we are having. You may even consider watering around the foundation of your home to help prevent foundation cracks!
Written By "Rockin' Kev" Kevin Keilig