Tuesday became our best covering day for the overwintering quonset style houses at the nursery as a dry day and low wind speeds made for ideal conditions. Wind speeds exceeding 5 miles per hour make it difficult to manage the huge sheets of white plastic that act like a sail when wind is involved. After the plastic has been installed the next step is to spray all the houses with a fungicide as reduced light and ventilation will be an ideal environment for the pathogen called Botrytis that will attack dead and live tissue which in essence eats away at plants which will damage them severely or even cause death if left unchecked.
Evergreen azaleas are not only protected with the covered structure but in addition have a layer of what is called microfoam suspended over them to give additional protection from the cold winter. While most plants have a tolerance of cold of 10º F as far as roots are concerned, evergreen azaleas for the north are less tolerant of cold roots to about 25º F.
For all trees and shrubs in the ground the environment is totally different as ground moisture and ground heat even in the depths of winter protect roots from extreme cold.. Dry plants in pots even when protected by the overwintering structures are subject to root damage if too dry as low temperatures and cold air with a little moisture is able to kill the root system so that at times hand watering is performed as necessary.
Next week too will be the cutting of branches for grave blankets that is, if we are able to get into the fields due to the wet weather and intermittent rain. One year near Kittanning, Pennsylvania, November was very wet during the Christmas tree cutting season. About 200-300 scotch pine were located in an isolated pocket surrounded by a low area with water. Dragging the trees through the muddy water would have ruined them as the dried mud cannot be washed off. My dad said, “we will carry them out.” Well the “we” did not include him and he didn’t have a mouse in his pocket either. The “we” were all the kids that carried them out to the road to be baled. The trees were saved and the result was worn out bodies with a reward of the famous hot dogs at the PO Lunch in downtown New Castle and a coke!