By mid Autumn most gardeners thoughts are turning to the best way to protect their gardens from frost damage and ensuring that vulnerable plants are well looked after during the winter.
Although you can never completely remove the threat of frost damage to the plants in your garden, you can at least be prepared and avoid getting caught out, especially by early or late cold snaps - these are our 5 top tips:
1- Group Plants Together
Create a microclimate for your potted plants which allows them to provide shelter for each other by grouping them together - this also makes it easier to cover them over quickly and water in one go. Ideally find a spot which faces South or West and has some protection from a hedge or structure - being near to the house or shed will also help you keep an eye on things.
2- Use a Fleece Covering
Fleece, Hessian and Jute all make good protective coverings for plants, either individually or over a whole bed. Fleece fabric has the advantage of not only protecting from frost but also allowing light and moisture to filter through and is easy to fold up and store when not required.
Easier still you can use Easy Fleece Jackets to create a warmer microclimate on - just pull over the pot or plant and and fasten at the bottom. Pots can be ruined by frost damage too so make sure you cover right to the ground in really cold weather.
If you are protecting crops in the Kitchen Garden then Easy Fleece Tunnels not only protects plants from from frost and harsh weather, but also warms the air and soil around your seedlings to make sure they grow away early in the new season - just push into the ground when they are needed and fold away for storage on warmer days.
3- Move Particularly Tender Plants Under Cover
Tender plants can be overwintered in a cold frame or under a polythene cover such as a Grower System or Cloche - keep them well ventilated to avoid rot and don’t forget to water regularly as the polythene will not allow rainwater in.
If you have space for a Polytunnel then this gives you the ultimate solution - a space not only to protect your plants but also somewhere to work away from the wind and weather!
4- Use Natural Insulation
It sounds unlikely, but in fact snow can help to insulate your plants, especially from cold drying winds. Make sure you still clear snow from tree branches and conservatory/greenhouse roofs, though, as snow can become heavy and cause damage. Leaf Mulch, home made compost and straw all provide natural protection for roots of dormant plants in the border - dress your beds with a thick layer in late Autumn while the soil is still warm.
5- Keep Watering
Plants lose lots of moisture in the cold, dry air so make sure you keep up with watering if they need it - little and often will help prevent stress in the plant and will improve their natural resistance to the winter weather. Too much water in very cold weather risks freezing the ground around the roots so avoid overdoing it and make sure pots don’t become waterlogged - they will freeze solid if the night time temperature plummets!