Protecting your plants during the cold weather
Depending on the situation of your plants potection always is better than cure;
- By putting a thick layer of mulch around the base of evergreen plants will keep the soil frost free and allow them to take up moisture during periods of cold weather and stop them from becoming dehydrated.
- If plants are cut back hard in autumn new growth could be damaged by frost.Leave the old growth of tender plants unpruned over the winter months. This will help to protect the central crown of the plant and take the brunt of any frost damage.
- Cold air and frost always descend to the lowest point in a garden so avoid planting tender plants in obvious frost pockets.
Snow does have its benefits, it acts as an insulator, protecting plants from the cold and frost. Beware though as a heavy layer of snow can also cause leaves and branches to break, so it’s important to know how to deal with it;
- Shake excess snow from the branches of large trees, shrubs and hedges, to prevent them from snapping or becoming disfigured by the weight.
- Remove heavy snow from the roofs of greenhouses or cold frames to let in the light and protect the structures from bending under the weight.
- Use lengths of string to support the branches of conifers and stop them being pulled out of shape. Branches that bend away from the main plant may not spring back into place when the snow melts.
- Try to avoid walking on snow-covered grass as it will damage the turf beneath and leave unsightly marks on the lawn. It can also encourage the growth of fungal diseases which thrive in the cool damp conditions
If the worst does happen
Frost-damaged plants are easy to spot, their growth becomes limp, blackened and distorted. Evergreen plants often turn brown and the leaves of tender plants take on a translucent appearance.
If your plants do get frosted this doesn’t necessarily mean the end for them, many plants will recover given time. However there are ways of minimising the damage:
- If the plant defrosts too quickly it can damge the growth so protect them from the morning sun by moving them if possible, or if not try covering them with a layer of black plastic to block out the sun or something similar.
- Cut back frosted growth in spring to a healthy, new bud, to prevent further die back and encourage plants to produce fresh, new shoots.
- Feed damaged plants with a balanced fertiliser (one with equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) to encourage strong, healthy growth.
- Dig up small, tender plants and take them into the greenhouse. Many should quickly recover and produce new shoots.
- Newly-planted specimens will often lift themselves proud of the soil surface if there is a hard frost straight after planting. Check them regularly and re-firm the ground around them to ensure their roots are always in contact with the soil.
Once you’ve done all that – relax