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The Plant Doctor:

Unlike their animal cousins who can migrate or lie dormant for the winter, plants are literally stuck in the mud.

They must face the elements head-on with the skills developed from millions of years of evolution.

Deciduous trees shed their leaves, seal their buds and essentially close off their interior to the winter elements. They are able to last for months without water, sunlight and withstand temperatures well below the freezing mark.

Evergreen, though, retain their leaves and so must be able to maintain a life line without closing down.

The evergreen bag of tricks includes a wide variety of adaptations ranging from a unique shape that easily sheds falling snow to an internal sap that withstands extremely cold temperatures.

Even with nature and evolution on their side, no one said that we can't lend a hand in order to ensure the survival of out wintering plants.

One easy method is to spray evergreens with an antidessicant oil. This leaves a protective covering on leaves and needles that protects the plant from fall and winter winds while retaining internal moisture, preventing the plants from dehydrating .

You should wrap exposed trees such as roses and shrubs with burlap or other fabrics that will break the wind's bite. One relatively new item is called the "Bush Jacket." It protects the plant from wind and direct sunlight while allowing water to penetrate .

One of the most important procedures is maintaining sufficient water for wintering plants.

It is advisable to water the trees, perennials and shrubs thoroughly before a hard freeze. During thaws, water as needed , and always water deeply .

Zone Six - Monthly to-do list

* Time to bring indoors any house plants that may have spent the spring and summer in your garden. Indeed, it is advisable to bring them indoors before the evening temperatures drop below 50 degrees.

Just some precautionary notes: Wash the plants well to remove any insects, and apply an insecticide to the soil to discourage insects that may have selected your potted plant as their home for the winter .

* Continue adding to your fall compost pile ...you will appreciate the effort in the spring .

* Plant winter and spring flowering bulbs

* Protect wintering plants as described in this column

* Time for one last feeding of house plants. They will continue to grow indoors during the sinter but at a much slower rate. Some may even become dormant .

* Fertilize the lawn. Formulations specially designed for the Fall fertilizer are available. The mixture stimulates root growth, rather than foliage This will ensure Winter survival and an early Spring "green-up."

* Treat perennial weeds such as dandelions ...they are more susceptible during the fall .

* Plant Fall grass seed, but wait until the daytime temperature remains consistently below 70 degrees .

Questions or comments on gardening and plant care can be addressed to:

The Plant Doctor c/o Queen Publishing Company, 41-09 Bell Blvd., Bayside, N.Y. 11361, or by e-mail: Plant.doctor@prodigy.net

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