Time to protect plants from winter chill as Okanagan Valley temperatures drop

Save your garden from cold

Casey Richardson

With plenty of snow and cold temperatures in the forecast, Okanagan gardeners are advised that some plants may need extra protection.

Plant specialist Scott Austin with GardenWorks in Penticton said plants in the Okanagan tend to be winter hardy, but preparing them correctly will help your future garden succeed.

“I know a lot of people were caught short by the sudden arrival of winter. And now it's gonna get even colder. So there's still time to mulch, if you've got plants that you suspect are quite tender and may not have a very good time of it in the next few weeks,” he said.

“If you've done the normal things, you've watered your garden well, particularly evergreens, and if you've mulched where needed, if you've done some pruning back where needed, you should be okay.”

Mulch and straw are both excellent insulators for gardens, and can be utilized by laying down two to four inches to trap heat released from the soil.

“Good news is we also have snow cover. Snow is an excellent insulator.”

Plants in containers should be moved in closer to the house if possible.

“If you can't move them, you can build a box around them and stuff it with leaves or insulating material, straw is excellent. And that will at least protect the roots,” Austin added.

‘The top might get damaged, but if the roots are okay, they can grow back from the roots. Other than that, you know, it's kind of sit back and hope for the best.”

The only concern on Austin’s mind is if the area gets a long extended cold snap with nighttime lows, close to minus 20 C.

“That could create some problems come springtime,” he said.

If you didn't have time to properly prep their garden for winter, Austin suggested getting some mulch on top as soon as possible to protect the plants' roots.

While gardening may be done for the season, Austin has some tips on how to keep your Christmas trees healthy and happy.

“After you cut it, you've got about two to three hours to get it into water. With this cold, I would put it into a transitionary state to warm it up first before you bring it into your house,” he said.

“Get it freshly-cut and put it into the water. Make sure your stand holds lots of water and make sure your stand is clean before you put it in the stand, that there's no dirt or dust from last year in there. And tree preservative does work. It helps to keep the algae from forming on that cut into the tree.

“I always look at a cut Christmas tree as a huge bouquet of cut flowers. It's the same thing.”

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