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Protecting Your Garden In Winter

Winter Garden

Introduction

With the unpredictable weather patterns that we are experiencing at the moment, many of us will be thinking about protecting our gardens through the winter months. By heeding the weather forecast and taking action before bad weather strikes, we can save time, plants and money!

  

Plants in containers

Plants grown permanently in large containers are more vulnerable to freezing conditions, especially if they are evergreen. This is because the pot can freeze up and the plant can no longer take up the water it needs to replace what is being lost through its leaves.

 

Top tips:

 
  • Move half hardy plants to a greenhouse that can be heated if need be – these plants are unlikely to survive much hard weather if they are left outside.
     
  • Move hardy evergreens to a cold greenhouse if you have room.

  • If you do not have a greenhouse, move containers to a sheltered part of the garden, preferably near a house wall where they will get some reflected heat.

  • Group the containers together for extra protection.
     
  • Wrap the pots in bubble wrap to give the roots extra insulation.

  • Wrap evergreens with horticultural fleece to cut down on water loss through the leaves.
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  • Monitor your evergreens and water if necessary – they can dry out quickly during windy weather.
     
  • Raise pots containing deciduous plants onto pot feet or bricks if the weather is wet, to help with drainage.
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    Tender plants in the ground

    If possible, these should be dug up, potted into large containers and moved to a greenhouse that can be heated if need be. However, many may survive if they are given some protection. 

     

    Top tips:

     
  • Wrap tender evergreens such as Cordyline australis and Tree Ferns by surrounding them with a layer of dry straw or bracken. Wrap the plant and straw in horticultural fleece tied at intervals with string to prevent it blowing away or rubbing the plant.
     
  • Plants such as Penstemon and Melianthus can have their crowns protected with bracken or fleece. This is often enough to protect the plant so that it shoots back from the base next spring.

  • Leave old growth on tender plants through the winter as extra protection. This can be removed next spring once the weather warms up.
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    Newly planted evergreens

    Any evergreen plant is susceptible to ‘drying out’ during freezing weather – even those that are perfectly hardy once they are established in the ground.

     

    Top tips:

     
  • Erect a windbreak around newly planted evergreens that were put in during the autumn.  Make sure that they do not go short of water during dry, windy spells.
     
  • Do not over feed plants in autumn – this will encourage evergreens to put on soft growth that may be harmed during a cold ‘snap’.

  • Do not cut evergreen hedges past mid October. Pruning later that this can encourage the plants to put on soft new growth.
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    General Garden Advice for Cold Weather

    There are certain measures that you can take to give your garden the best chance of coming through a period of hard weather.

     

    Top tips:

     
  • Do not over feed your borders in autumn and use a balanced general fertilizer rather than one that is high in nitrogen.
     
  • Do not prune plants too hard in autumn. It is better to leave extra growth on the plants until spring when they can be tidied up. This will act as some protection, meaning that although tips may be killed, the plant may stay alive lower down.

  • Apply mulch to your borders in early autumn. This will give extra insulation to the soil and also protect the crowns of herbaceous perennials.

  • Take soft wood cuttings of tender plants such as Salvia, Gazania and Penstemon towards the end of the summer and over winter in a frost free environment.
     
  • Round up any empty containers and store them in a frost free environment until they are needed next spring.

  • Make sure that you have a supply of rock salt to spread on paths that you use regularly.
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