Now that temperatures are dropping significantly, particularly at night, it’s time to start thinking about looking after our gardens as well as our homes. We’ve already looked at protecting garden furniture during this time of year, now, it’s time to pay our plants some attention!
Here’s a guide to help you prepare your plants for the cold weather to minimise damage and help them last for many seasons.
Preventing as much damage as possible
Prevention is the best form of defence when it comes to protecting your plants, so here are some things you can do to avoid or minimise the damage:
Choose plants that are suited to the climate – choosing plants that are reliable and resilient to the cold weather and particular climate where you live will be a really good idea, and they’ll be much easier to look after, too.
Know where is best to plant them – cold air and frost will affect the lowest parts of your garden, so avoid planting the most sensitive plants in small, low corners.
Avoid cutting back tender plants too much – it can be really tempting to cut the dead leaves and bulbs off a plant, but refraining from doing this in the winter can be useful as these can provide a bit of extra insulation for the most tender parts of the plant.
Bring potted plants indoors – where possible, bringing sensitive potted plants indoors will be the best form of defence against the cold weather.
Protecting your plants
It’s highly unlikely that most of the tender, exotic plants on offer in most good garden centres will be able to withstand the cold weather without some form of protection. Here are some things you can do to look after them:
Add a thick layer of mulch to the soil/base of plants – mulch acts as an insulator, holding in heat and moisture in the soil. It will therefore stop the plant from becoming frozen and dehydrated, though it will need to be replaced fairly regularly so it doesn’t have an adverse affect.
Cover certain plants and flowers – covering tender plants with a cloth, tarp or even a blanket will help keep the frost off on particularly cold days. Be sure to check that the material isn’t actually touching the plant, and that you take it off the next day so it can get some air and sunlight.
Choose your pots and containers carefully – looking for pots that are frost and crack-proof will be imperative for keeping them (and the plants) in one piece during the winter. Where possible, keep plant pots off the floor to prevent water logging too.
Know when (and how much) to water them – over-watering your plants during the cold weather isn’t a great idea as this can lead to freezing. Watering your plants if the soil is frozen can also damage them too, so let the frost melt first.
Take cuttings of your favourite plants – if you can’t move your plants indoors, take a clipping of it and move that indoors as a bit of reassurance if the plant doesn’t make it.
Saving your damaged plants
If your plants have suffered at the hands of the cold weather, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end for them. There are some things you can try to get them back, and we’ve included some of them here:
Invest in a good plant feeder for damaged plants – providing them with extra nourishment is really vital to make up for everything they’ve lost. Look for a balanced fertiliser, with equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, to do the trick.
Move damaged plants into a greenhouse – moving damaged plants indoors (especially into a greenhouse) can be great as it will provide them with the head and shelter they’ll need to recover.
Cut back frosted growth in the warmer weather – it can be tempting to cut frost off a plant, or to remove parts of the plant that have been frozen but this can be too harsh and damaging for the plant. Instead, let it defrost naturally and slowly, and cut it off when it gets warmer.
Keep them out of harsh sunlight – likewise, if the frost melts too quickly this can be dehydrating for the plant so cover them if they’re in direct and harsh sunlight.