At this point in the year, fall bulbs should be at the ready, with soil turned and prepared for planting. But wait, there’s one additional step to ensure spring plants survive and bloom. Moisture control is something we don’t typically think about before winter, but readily see the need once spring arrives. Plants undergo tremendous extremes in many areas of the country, especially where winter winds and temperatures fluctuate.
The main cause of winter damage to trees and shrubs is through desiccation, or drying out. When the ground freezes, plant roots are unable to take up water from the soil, so they quickly begin to use up all the water stored in their leaves and stems. Plants that don’t drop their leaves or needles are vulnerable to this condition. Summer, like the one we just experienced in 2016 with dry conditions and oppressive heat, will stress plants including their moisture uptake.
An anti-transpirant is a product that helps reduce moisture loss due to windburn, transplant shock, drought and winterkill. In regions where winter is particularly harsh, two applications are recommended in November or December, and again in February when daytime temperatures are suitable for spraying.
One of the most recognized products of this type is called Wilt-Pruf. It’s been sold commercially and nationally at retail for more than 60 years. This plant protector is an anti-transpirant that produces a film to prevent wilting. The all-natural formula is made of pine-tree resin and water. Most anti-desiccants are marketed as biodegradable, although not all are using natural ingredients. A chemical compound known as Moisturin is used in other popular treatments. It’s a polymer that binds to plants and provides a coating that protects against evaporation.
During the holiday season, many retailers stock and sell the ready-to-use formula of Wilt-Pruf to spray and treat live evergreens and garlands used for exterior decorating. In areas of the country where ball-and-burlap (live) Christmas trees are sold, consumers may elect to spray well in advance of bringing their tree indoors.
As an alternative to sprays, to protect plants from losing moisture, consumers may opt to wrap their tender plants with burlap affixed to hardwood or steel stakes surrounding their plant(s). This will cut down on winter winds that can penetrate and damage plant life. Roses are also protected by placing Warp’s Rose Collars over canes that are slightly reduced or trimmed to allow fitting close to the ground. Many rosarians will mound fresh mulch or dirt 4-5 inches above the tender bud union (the point from where the canes sprout) on the rose prior to installing rose collars or burlap protection.
Remind your retail customers to think about their moisture-protection needs before winter arrives, and teach them about its importance. Then, they can relax and read the Old Farmer’s Almanac during the winter months and start dreaming big for spring.
This Month's Featured Products
The safe way to reduce moisture loss when plants are under water stress due to winter kill, windburn, transplant shock and drought. Dries to form a clear and flexible protective coating. Organic, biodegradable, non-toxic and non-hazardous. Wilt-Pruf is a long-lasting (3 to 4 months) film forming polymer.
Bulk Hardwood Stakes
Kiln-dried for straight stakes which provides extra strength. Pencil sharpened. Ideal for trees, shrubs, vines, tomatoes and vegetables.
Heavy Bamboo Stakes
Bamboo stakes are all natural, strong, lightweight, inexpensive, weather well and last several seasons in the garden. Use these stakes as plant stakes and markers, or as supports for potted plants. Comes in a retail poly bag.
For winter protection of rosebushes. White color and open top reflect sun and stop heat build-up to prevent premature sprouting in spring. Snaps around rosebush base. Easy to remove and store flat so that they last for years. Three collars in a colorful display package.
Old Farmer's Almanac
Counter display. Recognized for generations by its familiar yellow cover, America's best-loved annual and oldest continuously published periodical (now in its 224th year!) promises to be useful, with a pleasant degree of humor, once again fulfilling both the mission set forth by its founder, Robert B. Thomas, and readers' expectations. This edition is packed with wit, wisdom, tips, advice, facts, fun, recipes and much more.