Protecting Plants from the Return of Winter Weather

The Valley, and large parts of the country, have seen unseasonably warm temperatures this winter. As a result, many trees and plants are budding and blooming prematurely. Like spring, these much-enjoyed warm days will be interrupted by some frosty nights. And unfortunately, a dip in temperature will put new growth in jeopardy.

Luckily, protecting plants from cold damage can be accomplished in a variety of quick and easy ways. The key is to have your plants covered during the hours when frost develops. This critical period is from late night to early morning, when moisture on the plants can freeze. A good rule of thumb is to cover plants by 8 p.m. the night before a forecasted frost and uncover them by 8 a.m. the next morning.

Pots and plastic containers – they’re great for protecting plants on frosty nights.

Buckets and plastic plant pots are great for covering tender plants. Simply turn the bucket or container upside down and place it over the plant. (It’s a good idea to put a rock or brick on top of the container to keep it in place.)

Next time you get a large plant or shrub in a black plastic pot, save it. These large containers come in handy for those frosty nights.

Old bed linens – great for covering plants and protecting them from frost.

They’re great for cover use, since they’re lightweight and won’t crush the plant. Place sheets loosely over plants, and use a stone or brick along the edges to keep the sheet from blowing off. (Sheets are also great for draping over blooming shrubs.) Newspaper and burlap work well, too.

Don’t forget to remove your plant protection in the morning when the sun hits.

If a plant is injured by frost, damage will be noticeable within a few days. The plant growth will turn black, drop off or turn into “mush.” Sometimes new growth will reappear after a week or two, but in a lot of cases, you’ll just have to start over.

What are your plans to protects plants from the returning winter weather?

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Don’t Let the Cold Weather Slow You Down

 

 

winter run 1Cold, snowy days and warm, inviting homes can make it difficult to get outside and exercise during the winter months. However, with a few tweaks to your usual routine, you can stay in shape despite the cold temperatures. 

Added bonus? Regular moderate exercise will boost immunity by improving lymphatic and cardiovascular circulation. This gives you a fighting chance to stave off the germs running rampant through your office or your children’s schools.

Climb the stairs

This may come as a surprise, but climbing stairs provides a full body workout. Preventive Medicine found that climbing just six flights of stairs per day could reduce heart rate and increase levels of healthy HDL cholesterol among women who were previously sedentary. 

Snowed in? Get a full workout and increase your calorie burn by challenging yourself to climb up and down the stairs in your home or at work 10 times in a row. Do three sets of this workout in the same day to really challenge yourself!

Get a dog

Dogs are our best friends for so many reasons, including built-in exercise. It may not be fun to trample through the snow, but having a dog will likely require you to head outside for a daily walk, even if the weather is unpleasant. 

Check the local animal shelter or rescue group of your choice for a dog waiting for its forever home.

winter dog

Invest in a pair of dumb bells

You can complete a full workout with a set of dumb bells.  Do bicep curls, triceps extensions, squats, and military presses. Complete three sets with 10-12 repetitions of each exercise per set.  Select a weight that is heavy enough that the last few repetitions are difficult to perform. Aiming for more gain? Increase the weight and decrease the reps.

Join a gym or fitness center

Join a gym or fitness center close to home, and you can run on the track or use the pool, even when the ground is covered in snow. Many gyms offer discounted rates during the slower season (winter).

winter run 3

Jump rope

Jumping rope burns serious calories. Jumping rope with a weighted rope increases your calorie burn even further, and it also strengthens and tones your arms. Jump rope before work while watching the morning news or in the evening to unwind after your day in the office. You can find a weighted jump rope at big box stores like Walmart or Target for under $20.

Hit the slopes

Downhill skiing can burn a lot of calories. In fact, a 130 pound woman will burn about 500 calories during an hour of downhill skiing. In the Shenandoah Valley we are close to several wonderful ski resorts – take advantage! When you are bundled up and having a blast, you won’t have time notice the temperature.

Stay warm

You can beat the cold temperatures with spandex/compression pants and warm, perspiration-wicking running jackets.  It may still be freezing outside, but you will be more comfortable with the proper attire. Treat yourself to a few winter running outfits, and then head outdoors for some exercise.

It will be easier (and safer) to warm up inside first. Take five to ten minutes and do some low level aerobic exercising to get the blood pumping and body temperature up. This way, when you step out the door, you will already be warm.

Attend a group exercise class

Many gyms and fitness centers will allow non-members to attend group exercise classes on a drop-in basis for a small fee. If you can spare $20 or so every month, you can attend one group exercise class per week without locking in a full gym membership.  You can attend indoor classes such as yoga or Body Pump and stay warm even when it is snowing outside.

With a little planning and some dedication, you can meet your fitness goals, as well as fight infection and depression, despite the freezing temperatures.

What are some of your favorite ways to stay active during the winter?

 

Beat the Winter Blues Before they Begin

Winter sad

As we turn the clocks back on summer and the days become shorter, darker, and colder, even the most cheerful among us can get a little down. The gloom caused by Mother Nature each winter is biologically felt to some degree by an estimated one in four of us -usually starting around October and ending by April with the spring thaw.

While those of us lucky enough to live in the Valley are enjoying 70 degree weather, winter is still on its way. Before we are in its throws, I thought I would share some scientifically-proven ways to prevent the winter blues before they begin!

winter happy

Make your environment brighter

When daylight is in short supply, just 30 minutes of light therapy per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Look for ‘light boxes’ or ‘winter’ light bulbs at any big box store or online. Open blinds and curtains, trim shrubs and tree branches, and sit closer to windows to get as much sunshine as possible.

Eat smarter

Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Though especially tempting in cold weather, foods like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression. 

Simulate dawn

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that usually begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.

Exercise

We all know that regular exercise is good for bodies as well as our minds, but it is more important than ever during the winter months. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: One recent study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only.

winter exercise

Crank up the cheerful tunes

In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term.

Plan a vacation

Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you like, just plan something that involves the outdoors and lots of sunlight.

Help others

Volunteer your time to help others. In addition to being a wonderful way to give back, it is also proven to improve mental health and overall life satisfaction.  A true win-win!

winter heart

Get outside

While not always easy or evening enticing with frigid temperatures and ice on the ground, getting outside and moving has big benefits – it can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels. 

How do you keep your spirits up during the winter months?

A Little Prevention Can Go a Long Way this Fall

Fall

Fall is the perfect time to take care of the little things around your home that can make a big difference. Take advantage of the temperate weather to repair any damages before the first frost hits. Here are some tips that will keep your home in good running condition throughout the winter.

EXTERIOR MAINTENANCE

Check foundation for cracks and caulk around the areas where masonry meets siding, where pipes or wires enter the house, and around the windows and door frames to prevent heat from escaping. Openings in the structure can cause water to get in and freeze, resulting in cracks and mold build up. A careful check of the outside structure combined with inexpensive maintenance can save you money in the long run.

PAINT

Inspect exterior walls to see if any paint is peeling or blistering on the house or outbuildings. Peeling or chipping paint is a sign that the existing paint film is no longer protecting the siding of the building. Left uncorrected, the siding itself will deteriorate, leading to expensive repairs in the future.

ROOF

Make sure the roof is in good shape. Inspect for missing and loose shingles. Ice, rain, snow and wind combined with rapidly changing temperatures and humidity wreak havoc on roofs. Inspect your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if necessary. Check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage. Look for damage to metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. Scan the entire roof for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. Look in your gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating; expect problems soon.

GUTTERS

After leaves have fallen, clean out the gutters and downspouts, flush them with water, inspect joints, and tighten brackets if necessary. Replace old or damaged gutters with new ones that have built-in leaf guards. Clogged gutters can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and to water in your basement. They are also more prone to rust and corrosion.

DRIVEWAY

Weather-strip your garage door. Make sure the seal between your garage door and the ground is tight to prevent drafts. Inspect your driveway for cracks. Clean out and repair any damage with driveway filler, then coat with a commercial sealer.

INTERIOR MAINTENANCE

HEATING

Heating and cooling amount to 47% of the energy costs in your home. Proper sealing and insulation can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs, or up to 10% on your total annual energy bill. Air leaks from windows and doors are easy to find by moving your hand around the frame. Applying weather-stripping and caulk to these areas will help cut down on drafts. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Have your heating system checked by a licensed heating contractor. Heating systems will use fuel more efficiently, last longer, and have fewer problems if properly serviced. 

Check basement windows for drafts, loose frames or cracked panes.

Change the direction of your ceiling fan to create an upward draft that redistributes warm air from the ceiling.

FIREPLACES & FIRE PREVENTION

A clogged chimney is a fire hazard. Get your woodstove and fireplace in working order. Clean and inspect the glass door for cracks and have the chimney cleaned by a licensed chimney sweep. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue; a chimney cap can prevent this from happening.

Test the batteries in your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and keep extra household batteries on hand. Replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven’t already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.

AIR CONDITIONERS

Vacuum internal parts of air conditioners. Remove units from windows or wrap outside box with an approved tarp or plastic air conditioner cover in order to prevent rusting of vital parts.  

Clean humidifiers regularly during the heating season. Bacteria and spores can develop in a dirty water tank resulting in unclean moisture misting out into your room.

YARD & GARDEN

Pile of fall leaves with fan rake on lawn

Clear leaves from lawn, reseed patchy areas, and plant spring flowering bulbs. If deer are a problem, start deer-proofing by covering plants with netting and chicken wire.  Fertilize your lawn with a high phosphorous mix to ensure healthy grass in the spring.

Prepare your yard equipment for storage. This includes draining fuel from all gas-operated equipment such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and chain saws. Drain garden hoses and store them inside.

Inspect and fill bird feeders. Keep in mind that once you start feeding birds you should continue on a regular basis throughout the winter months.

PORCH AND DECK

Check the supports, stairs, and railings on porches and decks. Make sure the handrails can support someone slipping on snow or ice. Cover and store outdoor furniture and barbecues in a protected area.

Make sure all soil is emptied from pots and planters. Dirt left in clay pots will freeze and cause the pots to crack if left outside

Please share your tips for winter preparation!