How to: Protect Your Plants

Winter Garden

Every year the garden cycles through and copes with four seasons.  Most of the time, it can look after itself quite happily, but there are times when a little pre-planning and extra help will prevent heart-breaking damage or loss resulting from the worst of our winter weather. Frost and harsh cold weather is probably the greatest expected threat to your tender garden plants, as it can either either cause damage to the plant themselves, or it can freeze the moisture in the ground for long periods, causing them to suffer from the effects of drought.

So, how can we protect our tender or prized plants from the inevitable ‘cold snap’? 

There’s no need to panic.  Checks and pre-planning can protect anything in your garden that worries you.

  1. Check weather forecasts and keep an eye on the weather in your area.  If frost is expected, or the cold weather is setting in, prepare to put step 2 in place.  If you have experienced a clear, blue sky during the day in the winter, it is highly likely that Jack Frost will strike overnight.
  2. The quickest and simplest way to protect your plants is to cover them loosely, and secure the cover with stakes or rocks.  Lighter covers, such as fleece are perfect, but almost anything will work, such as hessian, although you may need to support a heavier cover to prevent breakage.  A fleece plant jacket is ideal for individual container plants, and these can be pulled in at the bottom of the plant or pot; larger areas can benefit from a fleece tunnel.  The cover will trap warmer air around the plant to combat the frost and cold, but will still allow the plant to breathe.

Protect Your Plants

So, that deals with the ‘cover fix’ to beat periods of cold weather.  There are also other longer-term ways to reduce the impact of the cold.

  1. Putting your favourite container grown tender plants in a frost free greenhouse or conservatory.
  2. Moving potted plants to a protected area near the house wall, where the temperature doesn’t drop as severely.
  3. Any particularly susceptible garden plants in the border, that you have been unable to move, can be wrapped with fleece, packed with an extra layer of straw for insulation. Improvise for larger plants, encasing them in a protective cage of wire netting or plant screening.
  4. Mulching by adding a think layer of straw, bark, leaf mould, or garden compost, over the ground around the base of the plant. This helps to lock in moisture, protects the roots and helps to hold onto any heat in the soil.
  5. Don’t be taken unawares – frosts can start as early as September, and have been known to continue periodically through to April/May.
  6. In the even of heavy snow, use a broom to gently brush it off susceptible evergreen plants, which can snap and break under the weight.

Roses Covered In Frost

Top Tip:

The most common time for frost to strike is clear and cold nights. If you've enjoyed a clear blue sky all day in winter, take action to protect your plants at night.

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