by Charlene Burgi
When I woke this morning the outdoor thermostat read in the 20s. In addition to the biting cold, the wind was howling, sending the wind chill far lower than what registered. The tender container plants that just moved up from Marin were exposed to this freeze. This winter wakeup call demanded that I no longer avoid the inevitable. Winter is here. How can we be experiencing these weather conditions when I am still thinking about planting more color in the garden? Alas, I put visions and dreams aside and, if you are like me, we’ve got to get to work to protect our gardens from the harsh elements.
First, recognizing Sunday is the end of daylight saving time, I adjusted the time on the controller back one hour. My controller doesn’t have a nine-volt battery, but you might check to see if your controller has one and replace it. A dead battery will not hold your irrigation program if you experience a power outage. This could cause your controller to default to runtimes of 10 minutes per valve every day of the week when power is restored. That could easily put you in Tier 4 before you know it!
Second, rain or snow is predicted here this week. Though the wet stuff is coming, the plants needed a drink of water to offset the fierce winds they have been experiencing. I understand Marin is experiencing similar weather. Well, okay, maybe not the forecast of snow, but cold and wet. Put your controller on rain mode or turn it off if your plants don’t need to be irrigated.
Third on the list is insulating all exposed water pipes. The hardware stores should be well stocked this time of year. Installation is simple. The product is slit along the length of the insulation wrap. Just slide the wrap around the exposed pipe and cut it so the insulation runs from ground to hose bib. Don’t forget to pick up a roll of duct tape to secure the pipe wrap along the slit. On the outside chance there is a run on the product, use old towels or rags and cover the material with plastic.
Next, we need to protect our plants. You know what I am going to say: mulch, mulch, mulch. I also read a handy tip recently. If you have plants that are susceptible to damaged roots from the cold, heat up water in one-gallon milk bottles and place the bottles around the plant. Next, bury the milk bottles in layers of leaves to hold in the heat. (I am anxious to try out this new concept.)
Lastly, prepare to protect larger plants such as citrus and bougainvillea. Insert long lodgepoles around the plant(s) forming a square frame and cover with burlap. Avoid using plastic as it will damage the foliage if the temperatures drop to 32 degrees.
I must confess, despite the need to prepare for winter cold, I departed from the tasks at hand today and visited a local nursery. While there I discovered verbascum, a plant I’ve never grown. This herbal plant intrigued me and it seemed appropriate to purchase on the heels of Halloween (if I am to believe the folklore found on this website). I am not sure about the witches’ brew, but I don’t think the deer, squirrels and rabbits will care to partake. I am anxious to see how this plant performs next spring.
Do you have garden tips to share that can help save plants and protect exposed pipes? Please send them along so others can learn from your experience.
Mark Your Calendars!
Join us this winter and spring for a FREE Saturday series of sustainable landscape workshops, co-sponsored by MMWD and The Urban Farmer Store. Learn the nuts and bolts of rainwater harvesting, laundry-to-landscape graywater systems, managing your irrigation controller and more. The workshops start December 10 and space is limited, so sign up soon. Get details here.
Stay warm and have a great weekend.