Protecting your garden

There is a bunny rabbit that has been living in and near a community garden that I take care of in Marshall. Generally, I only know he or she is there when I just about step on it while I am weeding or planting something in the garden. I am also making the assumption that this is the same animal that must have chewed on some of the shrubs that are also planted in the garden last winter. Well, what can you say about last winter other than it seems for wild animals it is survival of the fittest.

This is the time of the year to try to make sure that some of your prized plants don’t succumb to the deer and bunny rabbits that live in your area. In days gone by, we used to use tree wrap on our trees and we can still do that but it is important to make sure that once spring has arrived that the wrap must come off. I think more popularly used nowadays is the use of the white plastic tree guards. This helps to keep rabbits and the sun from taking a bite out of the tender trees and shrubs that you are trying to protect.

Another tip is to use construction or hardware cloth. This also works well if you have a line of trees or shrubs that you want to protect. It is a good idea to sink this type of fencing into the soil about 2-3 inches (if the ground isn’t already frozen) to make sure nothing goes under the fence.

Deer fencing is another huge challenge. This is mostly because deer fencing has to be at least 8 feet tall along with posts and made out of strong fencing material. It is also important that if you are using hardware cloth or deer fencing that you leave enough space so animals can’t reach in and nibble on your plants.

Cold damage to plants is another tough challenge. The first point to make is that if you purchase a plant that is not hardy to Minnesota, it is a flip of a coin that it will make it through our winters. The USDA cold hardiness information does not take into consideration extreme winters like we had last year, ice storms, a lot of extra wind and ongoing sub-zero temperatures. Wind is notorious for drying out plants during the winter, causing dieback especially in evergreens. The best way to alleviate this is to make sure that they are well watered, so this year it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. While snow is great for insulating our plants from the cold, the weight can cause some problems with plants too.

I am also giving some consideration to any plants, whether they are trees or shrubs that are going into this winter still sitting in water. The chances are going to be pretty slim that they will survive into spring. This past summer I have noted some very large cottonwood trees that have eventually died because they sat in water all summer long. I also see many different varieties of maples sitting in water too. These trees may not survive the winter and another wet spring. If you have something like this happening close to your home or other buildings, it will be wise to keep a close eye on them in case they don’t make it to spring and will need to come down before they fall down. There have been many instances of larger trees toppling over because their roots were so saturated from the water that they have simply tipped over or have tipped over in some of our stronger windy days.