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When I first moved to Cantitoe Farm in Bedford, New York, I decided to plant many trees, shrubs, and perennial plants to create a beautiful, lasting landscape. Such planting, whether in a small yard or in a larger environment, represents a serious investment for the homeowner, and several things can be done to offer winter protection -- from snow, ice, freezing, thawing, desiccating high winds, and harsh sunlight. Hopefully, these steps will establish longevity and good health for the plants.
As the weather in Bedford gets colder after Halloween, we begin building the bamboo tepees that will soon support protective burlap around the boxwoods. These structures prevent the branches from splitting under heavy snow and ice.
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Stone urns and cast-cement planters are wrapped in plastic to protect them from moisture (and, thus, destructive freezing and thawing), and then in burlap for aesthetics. Francesca and Sharkey are happy to help with the preparation.
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1. Once the burlap is stretched and sewn tightly over these boxwoods surrounding my peony garden, the bottom edge is secured like a camping tent.
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2. We pound two wooden shims into the ground and screw them together through the material for added stability.
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3. The burlap is hand-stitched with a carpet needle.
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4. After each storm, we gently knock off any snow on top of the tents with brooms.
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Even when dormant, my Chinese tree peonies would suffer if exposed to winter winds. We build an enclosure using stakes sunk about 1 foot into the ground. Flat pieces of wood are screwed to the opposite side to keep the fabric taut.
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We've developed quite a system to efficiently construct the enclosures and barriers around the farm. These tips can be applied to even the smallest backyard garden.
Gather the right tools. We use bamboo poles and wooden stakes, burlap, jute twine, a carpet needle, rubber mallets (for sinking stakes), wood screws, and an electric drill.
Do one task at a time. The work will go more quickly if you install the entire system of bamboo or wooden stakes first. Then go back to attach the burlap as a second step.
Reuse and recycle. We save our burlap, plastic, and supports to use from year to year, replacing any worn-out supplies.
Watch the weather. Be sure to unwrap everything before the temperature climbs too high in spring, or the plants may be harmed by the excess heat that builds up inside the tents.
Be selective. Smaller terra-cotta or ceramic pots can easily be protected indoors. Reserve the wrapping job for large or heavy items that would be difficult to move or store.