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The Old Farmer’s Almanac is forecasting Winter 2015 to be “colder and drier than normal, with near- to above-normal snowfall” for the Southeast region of the United States.

In addition to preparing homes for the lower temperatures, gardeners must also prepare for Winter.  Severe weather can damage leaves and roots beyond repair.

You can avoid losing plants this year to the cold by following the tips below:

1.  Any potted plants in gardens, hanging baskets and on porches should be brought into the home, garage or a sunroom BEFORE the first frost.  Experts recommend putting them near windows that allow for the sun exposure they need, but not too close to the glass: if a leaf is touching the window pane, the freezing temperatures will transfer over.  Also: do not put potted plants near or on floor vents – the dry air can kill them.

2. It’s not just the plants that need protecting. Most ceramic containers cannot withstand the freezing temps either.  Also, some decorative pots may be too large or heavy to move indoors.  Wrap these planter pots in two layers of burlap (tied at top and bottom with garden string).  The burlap layers protect the pots and plants from freezing weather and strong winds that can break stems and branches.

3.  For planted gardens, adding a layer (2-3 inches) of mulch will protect root systems from ice that melts and seeps down into the soil.  If the soil gets too cold, the plants cannot absorb water.  Also, the daily freeze/ thaw water cycle will lift the plants and soil out of the ground.  This is called “frost Heave,” and it is very common when soil stays cold and wet.  To avoid this, add pine bark, wood mulch, wheat or pine straw to gardens… even evergreen boughs from your Christmas tree will reduce frost penetration.  Just be sure to rake it out after Winter!  Just as it slows the roots from cooling in the cold months, it will slow them from heating back up in the Spring.

4. Cover your plants with an old blanket or tarp to protect them from frost.  The covering can cause its own damage if it is not properly supported over the plants, so take the time prop up the blanket or tarp carefully.  Stakes can be used to ensure that no leaves or branches touch the covering.  Be sure to carefully remove the blanket during the day so that light and fresh air will reach the leaves.  Click here for more information about How to Cover Plants for Frost Protection.