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Re: rot prevention

Merrily in Washington DC, concerned about damage caused by alternating cycles
of freeze and thaw, asked about precautions she could make now to minimize

Merrily,  I'm a little warmer than you down here in Richmond, one hundred
miles to the south, but this is what I would suggest. I would say it is
really a little early to do anything since we may well have warm days into
December and you don't want to create problems when the temperature rises.
This program works well for me in my  little urban garden: When the first
good hard frost is forecast, which we have not had here yet, go out and kick
a little dirt over the tops of the more exposed rhizomes and anything you
brought in from the west coast this year. Don't bury the things, just get a
little on top to minimize sun-induced scald, fissuring, or too quick heat up.
Then, after Christmas, clean out the beds really well and round up some
discarded Christmas trees and cut them up. Place the little boughs over the
rhizomes and get a layer about eight inches deep. An alternative favored by
some in Northern Viorginia, is to get hold of some pine needles and make a
layer about six inches thick over the beds. Be careful not to bend back any
foliage fans at the point that they join the rhizome because they don't like
that. Some folks use other materials and the idea is that you should have a
light insulating blanket that breathes well and doesn't pack down with
moisture or become nasty or encourage rodents or other pests. Such a layer
minimizes temperature fluctuations in the soil, and to a lesser extent in the
rhizomes and the air at the ground surface.This winter protection should stay
on until about March 1 around here, and should come off when you see the
plants starting to stir. If you are having a cold March with ice leave it
until you are sure that is past, but get it off as soon as you can so things
don't heat up too much under there.

Hope this helps you. Give me a buzz if you have a question.

Anner Whitehead, Richmond, Va  Zone 7, urban
Henry Hall henryanner@aol.com

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