Garden Care During a Warmer Drier Winter
Unfortunately, winter weather predictions are calling for a warmer and drier than average winter here in northern New Mexico. While the warmer winter temperatures are pleasant, less moisture is always a cause for concern and we need to protect our landscapes to prevent damage from lack of water and hungry animals.
Here is a list of tips that will help keep plants in good shape through the drier winter months:
Leave perennials and ornamental grasses standing over the winter months. Resist the urge to clean up the garden by cutting them back to the ground after the fall frosts turn them brown. Dead stems and leaves shade the ground from the intense winter sun and help to keep the soil moister. This also protects the crown of the plant from the harsh, drying winter UV light.
Leave this year's perennial transplants standing through winter to improve cold hardiness and protect the young crown (junction of root and stem) from drying out.
Mulch. Apply a one to two inch thick layer of mulch to cover the ground around the plants. Use composted cotton burrs, pine needles, shredded wood or crushed pecan shells, They are both functional and attractive mulch materials.
Remember to water once every two to three weeks. Less snow and rain combined with more sunny days dry out the soil. So winter water both new transplants and established plants. On warm days (temperatures above 45 to 50 degrees) Use a hose and sprinkler to water flower beds. Put a low flowing hose under recently transplanted trees and shrubs.
Watch for rabbits. Dry conditions push hungry rabbits into our yards and gardens. Use deer/rabbit repellent sprays to protect young plants from the rabbits. Reapply the repellents every 4 to 8 weeks depending on rabbit populations. Spray more often if you see a lot of them.
Wrap the trunks of young trees to protect from winter sunburn of the bark. Use tree wrap to protect young bark on the bottom 3 ft. of their trunks. This will also protect the bark from hungry rabbits.