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Don't wait for strike tree; hydrate shrubs, evergreens, perennials before winter

Know It and Grow It
Lead Summary
George Bonnema, Luverne Horticulturalist

It is Monday and the wind has been and is making short work of our beautiful fall color. That is not unusual for this part of the plains. That is why I encourage those of us who live here to take a picture or two of how amazing the fall color can be on a sunny day before it is demolished by the weather!
And speaking of the weather, a couple of weeks ago I mentioned the importance of your landscape plants being hydrated going into winter. I was hoping we would have appreciable rainfall, but that has not happened and likely will not, according to the long-range forecast.
The shrubs, evergreens, and perennials have been stressed through the growing season this year as well as last, so that’s strike number one. Not having adequate moisture going into winter is strike two. A cold winter with not much snow cover could be the final strike for plants already compromised.
Nothing you can do to correct strike number one, and we don’t know about strike number three. That means that strike number two is the only one you can remedy.
Evergreens in particular have a very shallow root system. They need to be hydrated going into winter because once the ground freezes, they have no way to replace moisture that is lost through  the needles (foliage) by transpiration, and the result will be winter burn, which will not show up until it is too late to do anything to prevent it.
Young trees, perennials, and deciduous shrubs all depend on moist soil to survive the harsh Midwest winter. Other than evergreens, these plants are not using moisture to sustain their growth because they are going dormant. However, their roots need moisture if you want to see them back next year.
We had pretty much the same scenario a year ago, and this spring, I heard countless complaints from people about all types of plants that did not survive the winter. Likely, inadequate hydration was the basis for this preventable plant loss.
Also, earlier in September, I mentioned the bud initiation period for poinsettias was Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 and the importance of no supplemental light during that crucial month.
Well, my poinsettias have suddenly begun to develop their red leaf color. I never fail to appreciate how exact this process goes! The color and flowers will be perfect the day after Thanksgiving to begin the next holiday season!

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