What a wonder that plants can survive our winters.
At a time when we humans can bundle up and stay indoors, most plants have no choice but to stay put. They can't stomp their limbs or do jumping jacks to get their sap moving and warm up.
But plants do survive. Some plants just die to the ground each winter, their roots surviving in the warmer ground and storing food until spring. That's why asparagus stems tuned brown last fall and why coneflowers, delphiniums and peonies have been reduced to nothing more than a few dry stalks.
Pity those poor plants that must stand upright all winter. Even these plants do, of course, deal with frigid weather - all the more so with your help.
Here are some tips to keep all your plants cozy in the cold.
Lay down a thick blanket of some fluffy organic material - leaves, straw or wood chips, for example - to insulate the ground against cold to keep roots warmer. Five feet down, the ground remains a balmy fifty degrees year-round, and even a foot down, the temperature won't reach the chill of air temperature. Under mulch, the ground stays even warmer.
Low-growing plants whose stems and leaves stay alive through winter have it almost as good as those survived only by their roots. Hugging the ground, these plants are shielded from winter cold and wind. And if nature decides to throw down a powdery, white insulating blanket, all the better.
Tip No 2
In case Mother Nature is up to other activities, provide your own low blanket for low-growing woody plants - again, that fluffy cover of straw, leaves or wood chips. Wait to cover these plants until weather turns reliably cold so that stems have time to acclimate to cold and won't rot beneath a cover that is moist and too warm.
Tip No. 3
One way trees and shrubs protect themselves from freezing is by shedding those parts most likely to freeze - their leaves. You can help plants along by assisting their leaf shedding. No, not by pulling off the leaves. Avoid fertilizing, pruning and excessive watering in late summer to allow plants to naturally slow down and toughen up.
Anything that helps plants naturally shed leaves in late summer and fall also helps plants naturally toughen up for winter. Mostly, do nothing.