With cool temperatures through much of the autumn, alarmists warn of an impending cold winter, and I’ll admit that I’m at least a bit concerned that this forecast could occur. There is no doubt that winter temperatures have warmed over the past several decades, and now my garden is chock full of treasures that would have been highly questionable when I first began to garden.
The abrupt change from temperatures in the upper sixties last week to twenties and thirties (and snow, ice, and whatever) is inconsequential as far as the garden is concerned, though this gardener much prefers to be prowling about in shorts and shirt sleeves. Foul weather is forecast for several days, though none is expected to be extreme, and of course by this time of the season plants are well adapted to the cold.
In this garden no plants will be protected through the winter, except for the double dose of repellent that was sprayed on many evergreens in early November to ward off deer. A year ago this was neglected, with predictable results. Azaleas, aucubas, and camellias were nearly stripped bare, so the lesson was learned, and this autumn was spent more productively.
I’ve seen no substantial benefit from wrapping evergreens to protect them from winter winds, and mostly I can imagine the difficulty in wrapping and unwrapping that is enough to dissuade me. I figure that the branches broken in this process are more damage than is done by winter’s cold, and rarely have I seen any cold damage in the past few decades, even to plants that have been stretched a zone north of their dependable cold hardiness.
The long Thanksgiving weekend was spent cleaning up the piles of leaves that are dumped onto the garden from the dozens of trees that I’ve planted, and the maples and tulip poplars from the forest that borders the garden. In years past I’ve been satisfied to do this chore a bit at a time, and the deepest piles have often been left until February or March, or whenever I can get around to it when the weather is suitable. Despite my anxiousness for getting out in the garden in late winter, I find little motivation to accomplish much of anything until it absolutely must be done, or else.
This year I resorted to more mechanical means to pick up and shred the leaves, and though I was bone tired at the end of two long days, most of the task has been completed. Much of the garden is now covered by a thick layer of finely shredded leaves which could be helpful to diminish the crop of winter weeds that have been so pervasive in recent years. By late spring the leaves will decay, but this layer of compost helps so that no additional fertilizer is required.
I suppose that the shredded leaves provide some added benefit in maintaining soil temperature and moisture through the winter, but warmer winters have made this less of a concern, and I see little reason that temperatures will suddenly plunge far below what we’ve experienced in recent decades.