I often hear stories of how homeowners plan to protect their shrubs during a cold snap. Sometimes homeowners have good intentions, but they do more to damage than protection of their shrubs during a cold snap.

If your shrubs and trees have been properly cared for then they should come through this winter with little or no problems. Keep these tips in mind in order to prevent damage this year.

Maintain a three to five inch layer of mulch around plants at all times. Mulch helps to insulate root systems. Mulch also helps to protect the soil from rapid temperature fluctuations.

Do not prune during a cold snap. You may wait until March to shape most evergreens and summer blooming plants. Remember to prune spring blooming plants such as azaleas, forsythia and spirea after flowering.

Do not fertilize at this time. Fertilizing now, like pruning, may stimulate growth that future cold conditions would likely injure or kill.

Cover tender plants with old quilts, blankets, or sheets to help reduce frost and cold damage. This technique may not be practical for all plants, but it can be used to protect a special shrub, semi hardy plants, etc. It may be necessary to use sticks or poles to prop up blankets, quilts or other heavy covering to prevent branches or limbs from breaking.

Plastic can be used as a nighttime cover too, but be sure to take it off on sunny warm days to prevent heat damage to plants.

For more information on cold damage and how to prevent damage to your flower beds and shrubbery this winter, contact the Polk County Extension office at 770-749-2142 or