Winter Preparation for Plants, Tools and Equipment

Protect rose for winter soil around crownQuestion: I moved to eastern Idaho 6 months ago from a warmer climate. Could you give me some suggestions for protecting my plants from winter damage? Do my tools and equipment need special attention? They are stored in an unheated outdoor shed.

Answer: Normally, I would suggest that you start your winter preparations by late October, but it is not too late. If you have an underground sprinkler system, it should be drained as soon as possible so the water does not freeze and crack pipes, heads and valves. If it is designed with a drain at the lowest point, you can simply open the drain and let water run out. However, most systems have places which do not drain completely and need to be blown dry with a compressor. Many landscape and irrigation contractors provide this service.

Hoses should be removed from faucets, drained of water and stored inside. Faucets can be protected with an insulating cover.

This is an excellent time to get power equipment such as mowers, tillers and trimmers serviced so they will be ready for the spring. Equipment service businesses are not as busy now as in the spring. If your equipment does not need servicing or sharpening, I would recommend cleaning and spraying metal parts with WD-40 or similar oil. Drain fuel from engines and run them until all the fuel is used. This prevents gasoline from hardening into sticky shellac which gums up engines.

I also like to clean hand tools and spray metal parts with oil. Wooden handles can be wiped with linseed or mineral oil to prevent cracking.

This is a good time to protect roses after they are fully dormant. I place soil around the crowns of rose plants to give them extra winter protection. Leaves can also be raked around plants to provide protection. I like to cover my plants with a white reflective plastic insulating fabric. This protects plants from the up and down temperature extremes. White foam rose cones are also available to protect individual plants. This same insulating fabric also works well to bring strawberry plants through the winter in better condition.

Perennial flowers which have gone dormant can be pruned off an inch or two above the ground. Lay the pruned stalks over the tops of the pruned plants to give them some insulation. Ground cover perennials which retain their leaves should not be pruned.

Young trees can be protected from cracking bark caused by alternate freezing and thawing. Wrap the trunks below the lowest branch with a white plastic or fabric which has holes for air exchange.

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