March 5, 2013

    With the harsh winter we have been having, many of you may be wondering if your plants will survive the winter.  What determines whether a plant will make it through the winter or not?  Most people think that a winter without snow may be beneficial for plant material, but actually it can have the opposite effect.  Snow acts as an insulator for plant material, and can actually keep the ground warmer, and in effect, help a plant make it through the winter.

A few years ago we had a fairly mild winter with little snow, but several very cold days.  That spring there were many plants that normally make it through the winter that failed to come up.

According to researchers at Rutgers University a 9” blanket of snow can make a 42 degree difference in temperature.  According to their experiment, if the air temperature is -14 degrees, the ground temperature under 9” of snow cover would be 28 degrees.  This will make a big difference in whether or not a plant makes it through the winter.

Another possible threat in winter to your plants is salt.  If you are salting your sidewalks and driveway, or you have plants near the road, they can be damaged by excessive salt leaching into the soil.  Several plants are very sensitive to salt in the soil, and can be severely injured or killed.  Damage generally occurs on the side of the plant facing the road.  Evergreens usually will show yellow or brown foliage.  Deciduous plants can have death of buds and twig tips.

If you are concerned about your plant material, you can mulch the roots of your plants with straw or other mulch materials before the winter starts.  Avoid using salt near plants, and if that is unavoidable, consider replacing your current plants with salt tolerant plants in those areas.

Check back tomorrow for a list of salt tolerant plants!