Protecting your plants

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.

Mulching garden plants at this time of the year will protect them not so much from the tough winter weather as much as the spring freeze and thawing. 6 inches will help to protect them as best as we can. It wouldn’t hurt to shovel snow on top of your mulch as well.

The few days of warmer weather helps to make sure that we have our spring blooming bulbs planted. We can still do some fall clean up in the garden even when the weather is around 30-35 degrees. In Minnesota, winter at that temperature is something to be cherished. I think that I wouldn’t mind winter so much if that is how our temperatures would remain with only a little snow.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at s.dejaeghere@me.com


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