In the summertime, you probably spent quite a bit of time in your garden. Whether that was laughing as the kids ran in and out of the sprinklers, enjoying a beer in the afternoon sun or pottering around planting flowers and keeping the weeds at bay. When it’s warm, we’re happy to give our gardens the time investment they need to stay looking lovely.
But what happens when the cold weather hits? Suddenly the garden is a frozen wasteland that we avoid setting foot in. The grass is always too wet to cut, the flowers have all died away, and the beds are solid as rocks. But if you leave your garden alone during the coldest months, you’re going to have to spend more time in the spring repairing the damage. So today we wanted to share with you a few simple things you can do to protect your garden from the ravages of ice, snow and sub-zero temperatures this year.
What The Cold Does
The first thing to know is exactly what the cold weather does to plants, and why it’s so damaging. When it gets cold (and even frosty), the water sitting inside your plant’s cells will freeze, as water tends to do. This causes a fair amount of damage to the cell walls, and makes it difficult for the plants to move the nutrients it needs around. If cold for too long, the plant will start to die. Frost-damaged plants are easy to spot because their growth gets very limp, and you will often see distortion in the shape or even black patches. Evergreen plants will turn brown, while the leaves of younger, more tender plants will become translucent.
You might think that if your plants are at least getting some sunlight during the day that this won’t be so much of an issue. But if frozen plants are facing the morning sun they will defrost quickly, and this rapid warming breaks open their cell walls. Even hardy plants can feel the nip of cold weather, especially if it’s a prolonged frost. Their roots can’t draw in the water they need from the frozen soil, and they will start to die. Even the springtime frosts can be vicious, killing off blossoms and damaging fruit. So while your plants might look ok from the warmth of your living room, they’re probably suffering.
Protecting Your Plants
The best thing you can do for your garden over the winter months is a bit of preventative maintenance. Prevention is better than cure after all, and these simple things will stop you from having to rip it all out and start again come summer. We have a lot of cold weather and frost in the UK, so it’s even more important if you want that luscious green garden to come back to life! A few things you can do are:
- Cover plants that are trained against walls or tender plants growing in the open with a fleece covered frame. If you don’t have one of these, you can make your own with some chicken wire and fleece, or even with straw, sandwiched by two layers of chicken wire.
- Put a thick layer of compost around the base of evergreen plants to keep the frost at bay.
- If you will be growing tender plants, start them off in pots so that you can move them indoors during the winter. If you can’t move them indoors, make sure you take some cuttings and keep them in a warm greenhouse, ready for planting in the spring.
- If you have tree ferns, protect their crowns by wrapping them in layers of fleece, or hessian stuffed with straw. Cordylines and palms should be treated in the same way, and have their leaves tied into bunches.
- Low growing plants can be covered in a sheet of glass or a cloche to protect them from the wet, soggy soil.
- Make sure any outdoor potted plants are in frost-proof containers to prevent cracking.
Dealing With Damaged Plants
Of course, you can’t always protect everything. Sometimes your plants will get damaged despite your best efforts. If that does happen, don’t worry! It isn’t a death sentence for them, if you act quickly. A few ways of minimising the damage include:
- Try to protect plants from the morning sun by moving them to shadier spots. If you can’t do that, try covering them with a layer of black plastic to block out the sun.
- If you do spot any frosted growth, cut it back to a healthy, new bud.
- Feed your damaged plants with a balanced mix to keep them strong.
- Take small, tender plants into a greenhouse over the cold months.
- If you have recently planted, the new growths can sometimes lift themselves out of the soil. If this happens, push them back in and cover in another layer of compost.
- If it snows, make sure you shake excess snow from the branches of trees and clear heavy snowfall from the roofs of greenhouses or cold frames
Christmas may be over, but the cold weather is still to come. We’re most likely to get snow in this part of the world in March and April, so now is the time to prepare your garden for the icy weather. At JB Landscaping, we’re busy helping our customers get their beautifully manicured gardens ready to weather the winter frosts. If you would like to know more, have some help or even just ask us a question, just let one of our team know today.