As cold temperatures grip the land, it is comforting to wrap up, turn up the heating, and get cosy, but unfortunately we can’t do the same with our plants.
With snow, frost and cold temperatures causing havoc with our gardens, Gardeners’ World has some top tips to protect your plants until the warmer months arrive.
Be safe, rather than sorry
Many of the plants we grow can be killed by frost, while some require winter shelter when young. It's therefore better to be safe than sorry, so check the weather forecasts for any frost alerts and always take steps to protect your favourite flowers and crops before the mercury drops.
Shortcuts can work
Protection doesn’t need to involve extensive planning. There are many quick ways to protect your plants from frost, and you can enhance the protection you provide your plants by insulating greenhouses and cold frames, if you have one. You can even make your own mini-cloches for seedlings, or provide other tender plants with a fleece or hessian wrapping.
You’ve been coldframed
Young, hardy plants, which includes autumn-sown hardy annuals, hardy shrub cuttings and seed-raised perennials, will benefit from the shelter of a coldframe over winter. Opening the lid on warm days can help to prevent overheating and deter fungal diseases.
Cover with cloches
Giving winter crops protection from the worst frost and wind can make all the difference to their survival, and may even allow small harvests. Use cloches to protect broad beans, curley parsley, hardy lettuces, peas, salad leaves, spinach and Swiss chard.
Taking it inside
This does not mean bringing a fir tree into your living room, but instead using a frost-free greenhouse, which is invaluable for a wide range of plants. Insulate it with bubble wrap to retain heat and bring in abutilons, aeoniums, agapanthus, citrus, echeverias, fuchsias, pelargoniums and salvias. Conservatories and porches can also be used to the same effect.
Going back to the roots
Tender perennials that have spent the summer in borders can be lifted as soon as frost has checked their growth. Store the roots in a cool but frost-free place. Do this for cannas, ginger lilies, chocolate cosmos, dahlias, gladioli and tuberous begonias.
Do it the hardy way
Often described as the unsung heroes among garden flowers, hardy annuals are tough and excellent value for money. A packet for little more than £1 can grow 1,000 plants, with some of the most diverse hardy annuals including sunflowers, calendula, poppy, love-in-a-mist, larkspur, poached egg flowers, lavatera, alyssum, cornflower, night scented stock, nasturtium and scented sweet peas. They can also be sown directly into your garden borders where they will flower, meaning no messing around with pots, seed trays or pricking out.
Fill your pockets
Frost pockets are small, low-lying areas, where both late and early frosts are more likely, increasing the risk to tender plants. Some areas are more prone to becoming frost pockets, such as dips and dells in the garden that can act as collecting points for cold air. It’s therefore important that the plants we choose for these locations are well-equipped to deal with a shorter growing season and more frequent frosts, such as cirsium japonicum, achillea chrysocoma, geranioum rosemoor, calamagrostis Karl Foerster and campanula lactiflora.
Spring into action
Although it may seem unlikely when you’re wrapped in a scarf and earmuffs, the cold weather will eventually give way to the spring and it will be time to cultivate new plants and flowers. Check out our Spring Garden checklist for tips on what to do to prepare your outdoor space for the warmer months.
Gardeners’ World offers a wide range of advice to gardeners of all abilities with gardens of all sizes. More information and tips are available on its website.