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Will Your Plants Survive the Winter?

Right now, a lot of us are longing for the sight of green grass and pretty flowers.

It’s all right there; it’s just sitting under a lot of snow and ice. The plants are just waiting for the opportunity to begin their renewal process that happens every spring. Even with all the snow we’ve had in eastern PA recently, the plants are still “growing” and continuing their life processes. They are using the nutrients that were applied and stored this past fall. Plants and trees that were not prepared for winter are going to have a difficult time recovering from this bitter weather we are experiencing. Those landscapes that had essential nutrients available will come out of this winter in better shape than those that didn’t.

Why Winter Wreaks Havoc on Plant Life

We often forget that the plants undergo the same types of metabolic processes that we do. They need an energy source (food), they need water, and they need protection from the elements.

Come winter, even though the soil may be frozen on the surface, it is probably not further down in the root zone. Some of the roots remain active storing food (nutrients) so that as soon as the temperatures allow and the remaining parts of the plant “wake up,” there will be reserves available to the plant until it can begin to manufacture more food again.

With the melting we have had recently, water is certainly available now. However, during the very cold periods of the winter, the entire root zone was likely frozen. Plants cannot use ice; water must be in the liquid form. The water is used as the ground warms. The result: the plants can come out of dormancy and thrive.

How You Can Protect Your Plants

Ice and snow can be a double edged sword. Too much and it can damage the plants just by its weight. Too little and the plants can desiccate (dry out) due to the winter winds. A long snow cover can also protect and in some cases encourage the survival of some insects and diseases, causing damage later in the season. A moderate snow cover is a good thing especially when temperatures are extremely low.

Winters here in the Northeast are always unpredictable, but our landscapes continue to endure. While many plants have built-in defenses against harsh temperatures, it is largely up to us to aid the recovery and ensure a lush and green spring. We can do our part by providing spring fertilization and pest inspections.

How are your gardens faring so far this winter? Let us know in the comments!