Winter Gardening: Dealing with Cold Weather

Frosty weather may look beautiful but for gardeners it’s a headache. Why? Because sub-zero temperatures cause untold damage to delicate plants and stunt the growth of trees and shrubs.

It’s easy to spot plants that have been damaged by frost as they will become limp or blackened as the cells within the plant die. Similarly, evergreen trees become brown and shed their leaves and needles. Evergreen plants are damaged when there has been a prolonged ground frost which prevents the roots from absorbing moisture.

Protecting plants from the cold weather

Delicate plants: For delicate plants, be sure to plant them in containers that can be moved indoors. There is no need to bring them into the home if you have no room as a shed will work just as well. If your plants are rooted in the ground, find a way of covering them. A popular method is building a frame with cane and twine and covering this with a sheet of clear polythene – effectively creating a greenhouse. There are readymade alternatives available on the market but be prepared to pay a premium.

Evergreen plants: Apply a thick layer of mulch around the bases of evergreen plants to protect them. The mulch will stop frost from penetrating the ground around the roots and provide the roots with a source of water to stop the plants from dehydrating.

Dealing with plants damaged by the cold weather

  1. Protect them from strong sunlight. If your plants defrost too quickly this can cause further damage and render them completely lifeless. Given time, most plants bounce back and become healthy once more.
  2. Prune back frosted growth when your plants develop news buds or leaves. This will encourage the plants to grow fresh, new shoots and stop the frosted growth from being an overall drain on the plant’s energy reserves.
  3. Feed damaged plants using a balanced fertiliser. A balanced fertiliser is one with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium which will encourage strong and healthy new growth.

Dealing with snow in the garden

Many novice gardeners don’t know that a covering of snow can be beneficial to their garden, as it can act as an insulator and protect plants from the much colder frost. However, a heavy layer of snow poses a problem as it will cause branches and leaves to bend and break.

Make sure to shake the branches of trees, hedges and large shrubs so that the weight of the snow does not damage or disfigure them. Also, remember to remove large amounts of snow from the roof of your greenhouse. As greenhouses are made of aluminium and glass they are prone to bending and – in the worst cases – glass breakages. This will be costly and a pain to clear up, so it’s important to deal with snow in your garden in a timely manner.