Winter can be a bleak hard time of the year for the grower of nursery stock. The days are short and the nights are long. Yet growing plants is a year round activity that does require the grower to be performings tasks.
Watering plants can be be on your list. The ground may not be frozen and plants still use water. If the ground is not frozen you can still water if the ground will accept the water. Most plants are dormant so the amount of watering is not as high as in the hotter seasons. Evergreens lose water through their needles in the winter. So if one keeps watering as long as possible into the winter, seedlings and plants will suffer less stress. Winter drying of evergreens is a major stress factor in growing seedlings and potted stock.
Snow and ice on your seedlings and liners can be problematic. Starting with a more developed plant is the best solution to this problem. Tall thin seedlings that have not been root pruned and transplanted are not as sturdy a plant. They tend to bend under snow loads and may require staking later to train them strait. If your seedlings have a light amount of snow covering them you may ease the snow burden by lightly sweeping the snow with a broom. Don't shake them, they are like babies ... they get shaken baby syndrome. If snow or ice is frozen to the branches, allow it to melt rather than attempting to correct. If any branches are broken, you probably don't need to do anything unless there is a split in the trunk. If the breakage of the plant is sever, the seedling or liner shoud be discarded. The labor to correct is not worth the value of the plant. Also a poor quality seedling will probably be a poor quality mature plant. There is a market for such plants however, we have had many customers who want, " Charly Brown Trees" or stunted trees for unusual customer needs.
Warm spells in the winter occur. Suddenly, there can be days of warmer temperatures. This should not be a problem. If you have covering on or over the plants, you may need to ventilate. We normally open the doors to our greenhoses and this is usually all that is necessary. Cold frame temps may rise so ventilation will be helpful. Close up as nightfall arrives as the temperature will fall. Note that when sunlight intensity is high, plant tissues become active. Water loss at this time can't be replaced if the root balls are frozen. This is called plant desiccation. Also if there many freeze-thaw cycles, the crown of the plant will be heaved up exposing the roots. Root systems have a lower tolerance to temperature extremes and can killed by freezing low temperatures.A common way to prevent desiccation is to screen plants in exposed areas with Burlap .
Varmit control is important in the winter. Mice and rabbits feed constantly . Their teeth grow constantly and they love to chew on tender plants. We spread rat and mice bait about every two to threes weeks as long as we see it being consumed. Try and place the baits in a place where its easy to moniter, dry, and accessable only to the varmits. When the snow gets deep mice will feed up higher on the plants. They don't like to dig in the snow for food. They take the easy to reach food first. Thus tracks in the snow are an important sign to watch for. Mouse damage is usually not correctable. You may not see root feeding damage to stock till spring, so over baiting is the best solution. Care should be taken that the baits are only available to the target varmit.
Ordering seedlings early in the winter is your best way to assure a supply. We can ship many of our seedlings durring the winter but we recommend that you have them shipped after the winter weather is over. This will vary according to your location. If you get the seedlings and you can't plant them upon arrival, keep them in a cool place in your house or barn. Your basement may be an ideal place. Keep the roots from freezing. It will be hard to get your order filled in April because growers do sell out. What we dont sell, we line out for our nursery, Highland Hill Farm. We sell all sizes of plants from seedlings to large caliper trees. We also have our free use planters for you to use when you buy seedlings and liners from us.
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